• The Case for More Transparency on AngelList

    angellist-logoLast week, AngelList, the hugely popular platform that connects entrepreneurs with accredited investors, introduced what many have heralded as a game-changing new twist to its business. Called its Syndicate program, AngelList now allows angel investors to syndicate investments themselves, work for which they will receive carry. (An angel who syndicates a deal will earn 15 percent of any upside, while AngelList will collect 5 percent.) 

    If some of these syndicates involve the same groups of investors, and those groups morph into venture funds, don’t be surprised. As some angels have said on social media since AngelList announced its new program, it might allow many of the “best” angels to strengthen their brands and, potentially, move up the investing food chain.

    And there’s no reason why angels shouldn’t be able to extract more leverage from their investments, particularly if they’re willing to manage a big syndicate or serve on a company’s board.

    Still, while the syndicate program seems like a well-considered start, AngelList might think about providing some public accounting of the track records of its various syndicate leaders. As the gossip site Valleywag pointed out in its inimitable way yesterday, without a structure that manages to disclose something about the investors’ IRRs, the program seems likely to degenerate into a popularity contest. Much of AngelList’s matchmaking still rests on “social proof,” which isn’t quite the same thing as cash on cash returns.

    Last week, for example, author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss raised $350,000 for a logistics startup called Shyp in 53 minutes. Ferriss’ fundraising prowess is impressive, and nobody is prejudging Shyp, but it’s hard not to be skeptical about investments that are closed in less than an hour.

    Most VCs wouldn’t wish their fundraising process on their worst enemy, but it does help them demonstrate their qualifications and commitment to the investment process to both their investors and their fellow partners. Through vetting their PPMs with Cambridge Associates, undergoing lengthy and arduous roadshows with family offices and pension funds, and sacrificing a large amount of their own capital – typically 3 percent – in order to launch their funds, venture investors let it all hang out. (Yes, there are top-tier funds that are able to raise funds by picking up the phone a few times, but that’s the exception not the norm.) By the time a firm has raised a fund, they have left a trail of evidence testifying to the work they will put into an investment. Can the same be said of Ferriss?

    Obviously, AngelList doesn’t need to replicate the venture business – it’s large enough as it is. But in the interests of both entrepreneurs and the syndicates themselves, it might be time for AngelList to adopt an objective ratings process, one that would provide everyone with more insight into an investor’s qualifications than just his or her Klout score. No doubt it would make an already promising initiative even better.

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  • StrictlyVC: September 30, 2013

    110611_2084620_176987_imageGood morning, readers! Hope you had a great weekend.

    Remember, to get in touch with questions, comments, tips or just to chat, feel free to email me anytime at connie@strictlyvc. To sign up for your daily dose of StrictlyVC, click here.


    Top News in the A.M.

    Sorry, Coca-Cola. Apple is now the most valuable brand in the world.


    Will Alibaba Draw VCs Back to China?

    Although the American financial press seems preoccupied with Twitter’s impending IPO, Alibaba’s IPO could be an even bigger story. The China-based e-commerce juggernaut, which could go public as early as the first quarter of 2014, racked up revenues of $1.38 billion for the quarter ended in March, and analysts estimate that the company could be worth anywhere from $120 billion to $200 billion. (Facebook’s market cap as of this writing is $125 billion.)

    As the Alibaba offering approaches, one can’t help wondering why U.S. investors have had so much trouble capitalizing on Chinese tech IPOs.

    Although Yahoo remains among one of Alibaba’s biggest shareholders – with a 24 percent stake, half of which it plans to sell at the IPO – Alibaba has few U.S. investors other than GGV Capital, an expansion-stage firm on Sand Hill Road that invested in Alibaba in 2003; and Silver Lake, the private equity firm, which reportedly invested $300 million in Alibaba in 2011. (Japan’s Softbank owns 35 percent of the company; Alibaba’s founders and senior executives own another 13 percent.)

    American tech types have tried repeatedly to capitalize on the country, but factors like partner defectionsaccounting scandals committed by China-based companies, and a slowdown in the country’s GDP growth rate have yielded disappointing returns.

    Still, success will only come if a firm is willing to stick it out and take the time to forge relationships within China’s close-knit entrepreneurial community, says David Chao, co-founder and general partner of DCM, the early-stage venture firm.

    Since 1999, DCM has backed more than 200 companies across the U.S. and China, and three of its most recent IPOs are China-based companies, including  Renren, Dandang, and Vipshop. (DCM owned 20 percent of Vipshop went it went public last year with a market cap of $600 million; today it’s valued at $3.2 billion.)

    Last week, DCM scored another China-based investment win when Kanbox, a personal cloud storage service that is often likened to Dropbox, was acquired by Alibaba for an undisclosed amount.

    Pointing to a separate, recent deal – the Beijing-based search engine Baidu’s agreement to pay $1.9 billion for China’s popular smartphone app store 91 Wireless – Chao says that it’s actually becoming easier for savvy investors to generate returns. “Five years ago,” he observes, “almost all successful Internet companies were destined to go public. Now that you have a second generation of successful Internet companies going public — large cash companies,” Internet investors can expect exits through M&A, too.

    Other shifts Chao has witnessed include an “angel investor boom in the last year that will probably continue for a while,” and less copycat tech and more innovation, particularly when it comes to smartphones and mobile social networks. (Chao characterizes several companies as “way ahead” of anything we’ve seen in the U.S.) “What we’re seeing isn’t a 180-degree shift,” he adds, “but 10 years ago, 99 of 100 business plans were largely focused on being analogous counterparts to successful U.S. or Japanese Internet companies; today, that number is maybe 80 out of 100.”

    I ask Chao if it’s too late for firms that still haven’t made a foray into China — as well as whether he thinks U.S. investors have the intestinal fortitude to stick it out. Will Alibaba be the company that refocuses their attention?

    “It’s more difficult than it was 10 years ago” to enter the market, Chao notes. But plenty of venture brands are still being established in China, he says. Succeeding in China is all about the long game, he suggests, but “a firm can make its name in very quick order.”



    New Fundings

    Azimo, a two-year-old, London-based payment processing startup, has raised $1 million in seed funding from eVentures, a global venture fund with offices in San Francisco and Hamburg, Germany among other spots.

    Enmetric Systems, a five-year-old, Belmont, Calif.-based company whose software helps companies monitor, control and reduce their energy use and cost, has raised $1.5 million in follow-on financing led by Navitas Capital, with participation from new investors including Azure International, Belgravia Group, and several angel investors. The company  has raised $3.74 million to date.

    Love Home Swap, a four-year-old, U.K.-based home swap holiday service, has raised follow-on funding from MMC Ventures of $1.6 million. The company has raised slight more than $4 million altogether, mostly from MMC.

    Palantir, the nine-year-old, Palo Alto, Calif.-based data mining startup, has raised $196.5 million in funding, according to an SEC filing that was flagged by VentureBeat Friday afternoon. The funding brings the company’s funding to date to roughly $500 million, and sources tell the San Jose Mercury News that the company expects additional funding in the near future that could push the final round past $200 million. No investors are listed on the Form D, but Palantir’s existing investors include Founders FundGlynn Capital Management, and Ulu Ventures.

    PowerbyProxi, a seven-year-old, Pleasanton, Calif.-based that makes chargers and power pads that allow users to power their smartphones wirelessly, has raised $4 million in funding from Samsung Ventures. The funding is part of a $9 million Series C round to which investors TE Connectivity and Movac, an expansion-stage investment firm in New Zealand, also participated earlier this year.

    Sharecare, a three-year-old, Atlanta-based health information site launched by WebMD founder Jeff Arnold, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from the healthcare-focused venture fund Heritage Group of Nashville that brings its total funding to $91 million. Some other Sharecare investors include Galen Partners and TomorrowVentures.

    Swiftype, a 20-month-old, San Francisco-based startup that has developed what it claims is a smarter search engine for Websites, has raised a $7.5 million Series A round led by New Enterprise Associates, with individual investors participating. The company has also raised $1.7 million in seed funding to date, from a long line of investors that includes Kleiner Perkins Caufield & ByersCrunchFund, and Andreessen Horowitz.

    Twitch, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based video platform for gamers, has raised $20 million in Series C funding led by Thrive Capital, with participation from WestSummit Capital and Take-Two Interactive Software. Previous investors in the company Alsop Louie Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners, also participated. The company has raised $35 million to date.


    New Funds

    Revolution Ventures, the venture capital arm of Revolution LLC, run by former AOL CEO Steve Case, has closed a new $200 million venture fund. Case, Tige Savage, and David Golden will lead the new fund, which was raised in just eight months, according to the firm.



    Steve Ballmer calls Microsoft “like a fourth child to me in a raw, emotional goodbye to the company, set to the theme song of his “favorite movie of all time,” the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing.”

    As Jeff Bezos prepares to take over, Don Graham leaves the Washington Post.



    Bureau of Trade, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that had created a men’s shopping marketplace, has sold to eBay for an undisclosed, all-cash amount. Investors including Foundation Capital and Founder Collective had provided the company with $1.2 million in seed funding.



    Twitter‘s IPO filing — including details of how much Twitter intends to raise and what its shares will cost — will be made public this week, says Quartz.


    Job Listings

    CMEA Capital, the San Francisco-based venture firm, is looking to hire a full-time associate to support the partners in its life sciences practice. It’s a “pre-MBA” position and the firm is looking for someone who has already spent a few years within the health group of an investment bank or venture firm or  private equity firm. The ideal candidate will also have a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, or another life science field.


    Essential Reads

    Venture capitalist Fred Wilson on the promise of AngelList’s Syndicates program: “It’s hard to be a great lead investor and a completely different thing than being a well sought after angel investor who can get into someone else’s deals.”

    Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz weighs in on crowdfunding.

    Never mind what you’ve heard in recent years. There’s plenty of money in Europe for solid startups, say European VCs.

    Meet Anthony Noto, the Goldman Sachs banker taking Twitter public.



    More and more college aid is going to kids who less need it.

    The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report makes it official: If we don’t address climate change in the next 30 years, we’re in for some nasty business.

    Atul Gawande on the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act: It “resembles nothing more sinister than an eBay for insurance.”


    Retail Therapy

    Mugs to keep you motivated.

    Nine things to do in St. Bart’s.

    And: Do you have what it takes to survive for 24 whole hours in the wilderness of Surrey, England with no tent, water or food? (Well, you’d have limited food, and access to local streams and pools, but you’d have to forage for anything else!) Test your endurance at the new Survival Academy from British adventurer Bear Grylls, who has slept in a sheep’s carcass, quenched his thirst with his own urine, and now wants to share his extreme survival techniques with you, outdoor enthusiast. (Cost is $560. If you’d rather spend five days tramping around the Scottish Highlands with little more than a towel and head torch, the price is $3,000.)


    Please feel free to send us any and all story suggestions (anonymous or otherwise) by clicking hereIf you’re interested in advertising in our email newsletter, please click here. To sign up for the newsletter, visit strictlyvc.com.


  • StrictlyVC: September 27, 2013

    110611_2084620_176987_thumbnailIt’s Friday, and StrictlyVC is a little tired after a late-night birthday celebration, so please excuse any and all typos. Also: stay tuned for some good stuff coming next week, including  pieces featuring famed investor David Chao and Institutional Venture Partners.

    In the meantime, you can always reach me at connie@strictlyvc.com or on Twitter, and you can sign for the newsletter right here. Thanks again for reading and have a terrific weekend!


    Top News in the A.M.

    Ford CEO Alan Mulally is now the number one candidate to become Microsoft’s new CEO, reports AllThingsD.


    Attorney Jay Gould on the Pros and Cons of a Public Venture Offering: “Someone Will Do It Right”

    Earlier this week, I wrote that venture capitalists should take advantage of new general solicitation rules that allow them to advertise when they’re in fundraising mode. I was expecting pushback from skeptical VCs; what I heard from them instead was confusion about how they could advertise without breaking the rules.

    For help, I phoned Jay Gould, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman who heads up the law firm’s investment funds practice. Gould — who’s in regular communication with the SEC and says those proposed amendments around the new rules will likely be “substantially” adopted — agreed to discuss the pros and cons for VCs interested in advertising.

    According to Gould, one of the biggest downsides of advertising is “potentially” drawing more scrutiny from regulators and investors. (It’s already VCs’ biggest fear, seemingly.)

    There’s also just a lot more paperwork. First, a firm will have to file a Form D at least 15 days before beginning its general solicitation for the offering. It will then have to elaborate on whatever advertising methods it plans to use. And it will need to file offering materials, like PPMs, with the SEC before it starts handing them out to investors. Not last, a follow-on form has to be filed once the offering is closed.

    The solicitation period can also be a little labor intensive, particularly if it drags on and the firm’s performance changes during that time. The reason, says Gould, is Rule 156 of the Securities Act, which states that funds can’t represent information is any way that’s misleading or causes “material” confusion to investors. That means if an existing investment goes south during the marketing of a new fund, the firm needs to alter its advertising to reflect that change in its overall performance to stay in the good graces of the SEC. (Gould says firms should do this “promptly,” and suggests that even minor changes in performance could necessitate these updates.)

    What if a venture firm embarks on a public offering, then decides to shifts gears to raise the rest of a new fund privately? It’s not something Gould recommends. Among other challenges: after a public offering closes, a firm has to wait another six months before launching a private offering. (It’s a rule meant to keep the offerings from becoming integrated.)

    So what are the advantages for firms interested in availing themselves of the new rules, I ask Gould. He’s quick to point out that the funds that embrace them can post their performance numbers on their Websites, or go on television and talk about their funds without “getting grilled by compliance people.” Both could be effective in bolstering a firm’s brand and making it faster to raise a fund.

    In fact, he says, Pillsbury already has “a couple” of fund clients that intend to pursue general solicitation. And he anticipates many more to come — even if it takes a couple of years for firms to grow comfortable with the prospect.

    Most venture firms still “view these new rules somewhat suspiciously,” Gould notes. “But someone will do it right,” he says. “And it will be a really professional, polished effort. And people will go, ‘Holy shit. That’s the new standard. I guess I have to do this now.’”


    New Fundings

    3D Robotics, a four-year-old, San Diego-based maker of unmanned aerial vehicles, has raised $30 million in series B funding. The company, which was cofounded by former Wired editor Chris Anderson, raised the capital from Foundry GroupSK Ventures, and existing investors True Ventures and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. The company had raised a $5 million Series A round last year.

    Antenna Software, a mobile applications developer based in Jersey City, New Jersey, is raising a $3 million round, according to an SEC filing, which states the company has so far raised $2.56 million, including from Investor Growth Capital and Integral Investment Capital.

    Avocado Software, an 18-month-old, San Francisco-based company cofounded by Chris Weatherell, an early creator of Google Reader, and Jennifer Bilotta, formerly a senior user experience designer at YouTube, has raised nearly $900,000 in debt, according to an SEC filing. Avocado’s couple-focused app aims to help users “stay connected with the most important person in your life, through chat, lists, calendars, sketches” and more. Last year, the company closed a $1.3 seed round, including from Baseline VenturesLightspeed Ventures, and General Catalyst.

    DropThought, a year-old, Santa Clara, Calif.-based company focused on customer engagement analysis and social media marketing services, has raised $2. 5 million in Series A funding, according to an SEC filing. Investors include Xseed Capital.

    Good Eggs, a two-year-old San Francisco based company that aggregates, packs and delivers locally grown food to its customers’ doors, has raised an $8.5 million Series A round led by Sequoia Capital and joined by Harrison MetalCollaborative Fund and angel investor Max Ventilla, among others.

    Liftopia, an 8-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose online marketplace caters to the ski and mountain activity industries, has raised $5 million in financing led by Industry Ventures. New investors ru-Net, Thayer Ventures, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and Walter Winshall also participated, as did existing investors First Round Capital, Lowercase Capital, SK Ventures, Xandex and former Expedia CEO Erik Blachford. The company has now raised $7.9 million to date.

    MakeSpace, a months-old startup based in New York City that offers customers on-demand storage (along with on-demand pick and drop off to its storage facilities in New Jersey), has raised $1.3 million in funding from Upfront VenturesLowercase CapitalHigh Peaks Venture Partners and Collaborative Fund

    Porch, a two-year-old, Seattle-based company that’s building a data-driven marketplace for home improvement, has raised $8.2 million as part of a planned $27.6 million round, according to an SEC filing. It isn’t immediately clear whether or not the funding includes a $6.25 million seed round that the company disclosed in June of this year, and to which numerous high profile investors contributed, including Ron Conway and former eBay president Jeff Skoll.

    RidePal, a two-year-old San Francisco-based company that provides Wi-Fi enabled bus rides for corporate employees, has raised $3.2 million in Series A financing led by Claremont Creek Ventures and Volvo Group Venture Capital. RidePal raised $500,000 in seed capital last year, including from 500 Startups and Amicus Capital.

    Singulex, a 10-year-old biotechnology company based in Alameda, Calif., has secured a debt facility of up to $40 million from Oxford Finance and Silicon Valley Bank. The company has raised roughly $78 million in venture capital over numerous rounds and its backers include OrbiMed AdvisorsFisk Ventures, Prolog Ventures, and Jafco Ventures.



    Ronny Conway, son of renowned angel investor Ron Conway, is leaving his role as the head of Andressen Horowitz‘s seed-stage investing program and launching his own early-stage tech investment fund. As Dan Primack of Fortune reports, Conway introduced Andreessen Horowitz to the mobile sharing app Instagram. (The firm invested $250,000 and reaped $78 million when the company was later acquired for $1 billion by Facebook  Conway is expected to raise around $30 million for his new effort.

    Roger Neal has been named senior VP of corporate strategy at Boston-based Gazelle, a consumer elecronics trade-in site. Neal was most recently executive director of NYC Media Lab and has served in executive roles at BusinessWeek and eBay. Gazelle is a venture-backed company whose investors include Venrock Associates, RockPort Capital PartnersPhysic Ventures and Craton Equity Partners.



    King, the British computer games maker behind Candy Crush Saga, has quietly filed documents with the SEC for an IPO that’s expected to value the firm at more than $5 billion.


    Job Listings

    Burrill & Company in San Francisco is looking to hire an investment banking associate to work in the life sciences sector for its merchant banking group. Candidates have to have a bachelors degree in a life science-related field of study, or a business-related degree. The ideal candidate also has one to two years of experience in investment banking, private equity or venture capital.


    Essential Reads

    What Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, Instagram and Internet porn are doing to America’s teenage girls.



    As the debate continues in Washington over the funding of President Obama’s health care initiative, sources confirmed Thursday that 39-year-old Daniel Seaver, a man who understands a total of 8 percent of the Affordable Care Act, offered a vehement defense of the legislation to 41-year-old Alex Crawford, who understands 5 percent of it.


    Retail Therapy

    We like this simple, refined bike rack for the fixie that deserves to be displayed properly.

    Whoa.These black jeans were named after a black covered wagon that dropped off the corpses of 20th century miners in front of their homes. That’s pretty heavy! We probably won’t be buying them (too baggy), but we definitely think the company should win some kind of award for most dramatic backstory.


    Please feel free to send us any and all story suggestions (anonymous or otherwise) by clicking hereIf you’re interested in advertising in our email newsletter, please click here. To sign up for the newsletter, visit strictlyvc.com.

  • StrictlyVC: September 26, 2013

    110611_2084620_176987_imageGood morning and happy Thursday, everyone. It’s a busy morning around StrictlyVC headquarters, so just a quick reminder that I’m always available at connie@strictlyvc.com and on Twitter. To sign up for the newsletter, click here!


    Top News in the A.M.

    Apple’s Jonathan Ive and Craig Federighi: The Complete Interview.

    Series A Investors Take the Gloves Off

    In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about the symbiotic relationship between seed-stage and Series A investors.

    But things are becoming a little less symbiotic of late, suggests Josh Felser, co-founder of Freestyle Capital, a San Francisco-based seed-stage firm that recently closed on a second, $40 million fund. Felser says that he has encountered a number of Series A deals recently that “pitted the entrepreneur against the seed investors.”

    Here’s the scene that Felser has seen playing out more and more: A VC agrees to invest $5 million into a company with a $20 million pre-money valuation, giving the startup a post-money valuation of $25 million. The company’s seed investors, presumably holding convertible notes, ask to invest an additional $2 million in the Series A round to maintain their pro rata rights. But the VC refuses to go above the $25 million post money, telling the entrepreneur that if he or she wants to make room for those seed investors, the company will have to accept a lower pre-money valuation.

    It isn’t a new tactic. It’s always been the case that some VCs don’t play nice with seed-stage investors. In certain situations, too, there are simply too many seed-stage investors to accommodate; if everyone maintains their pro rata rights going into the Series A, it doesn’t give the VC firm enough of an ownership stake to make the investment worth its while.

    Still, in recent years, some Series A investors have either left room for seed investors or at least been upfront about their designs to maintain specific ownership levels, thus giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to look elsewhere.

    That’s changing, says Felser, who has been involved with two recent investment rounds where VCs have put entrepreneurs and their seed backers in precarious positions by not disclosing their true intentions until very late in the game.

    Felser tells me of one startup raising a Series A round that asked Freestyle to invest less than the $750,000 it had planned after the Series A investor laid down some inflexible terms. Felser and Freestyle co-founder Dave Samuel — successful founders themselves — reminded the entrepreneur of how much work they had poured into the startup. (As Felser jokingly tells it, for effect, they refreshed the entrepreneur’s memory over lunch in a darkly lit nightclub that opens out into an alley.)

    Ultimately, the founder made room for Freestyle, accepting a lower pre-money valuation in the process. But Felser says the trend is “something [for early investors] to be worried about” and calls relations between seed and Series A investors “symbiotic still, but tense.”

    Says Felser, “We depend on each other.” He acknowledges that “fixing the post-money [valuation of a startup] can make a ton of sense,” too. But he doesn’t like that some VCs are starting to play hardball, or that it’s happening “sneakily deep in the process” all of a sudden.

    “It’s something we’re mindful of,” he says.


    New Fundings

    Appirio, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based IT consulting company that offers technology and professional services to companies wanting to adopt public cloud applications, has raised $4 million, according to a new SEC filing. The funding brings Appirio’s total funding to roughly $80 million. Investors include Sequoia CapitalGGV Capital, and General Atlantic.

    Deem, a San Francisco-based, e-commerce platform company formerly known as Reardon Commerce, is in the process of raising a new, $100 million round, an SEC filing shows. According to the Form D, the company has already secured $70 million, including from new investors General Catalyst and HGGC, the middle market private equity firm, as well as previous investors Oak Investment Partners and Foundation Capital. Just two years ago, the company had raised $133 million in a financing that reportedly valued the company at $1.35 billion. The newest funding would bring the total raised by the 14-year-old company, whose apps help business and consumers manage online transactions like travel reservations and consumer loyalty programs, to roughly $450 million. Others of its investors include Khosla Ventures, and strategic investors American Express, Citi, and JPMorgan Chase.

    Gyft, a two-year old San Francisco-based company that makes a mobile gift card app, has raised $5 million in Series A funding from A-Grade Investments, Social+Capital Partnership and Karlin Ventures. Gyft raised $1.25 million in seed funding a year ago from Google Ventures, Founder Collective and 500 Startups.

    HotelQuickly, a Hong Kong-based maker of a hotel booking app, has raised $1.16 million in Series A funding, including from former Singtel and Singapore Airlines chairman Boon Hwee Koh and Temasek Holdings.

    JustFab, the three-year-old, El Segundo, Calif.-based e-commerce company, has raised $40 million in Series C financing, led by Shining Capital of Hong Kong, with participation from existing investors Matrix PartnersRho VenturesTechnology Crossover Ventures and Intelligent Beauty. The company has raised $150 to date.

    Ranovus, a year-old company based in Ottawa, Ontario, that produces advanced digital and photonics integrated circuit technologies (among other things), has raised $11 million from Azure Capital PartnersOMERS VenturesT-VentureMaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, and BDC Venture Capital.

    Shyp, a San Francisco-based company that promises to pick up packages, professionally package them, then send them on their way quickly and cheaply, has raised $250,000 from investors that include the venture firm Homebrew; author-investor Tim Ferriss; Paypal President David Marcus; and Google exec Brian McClendon.

    Synergis Education, a two-year-old, Phoenix-based company that’s working with six universities to fund, establish and grow higher education programs for adults, has raised a $33 million Series A round. The funding was led by University Ventures and included Bertelsmann SE and the University of Texas Investment Management Company.

    Urban Compass, a two-year-old, New York-based home rentals platform and social network, has raised a $20 million Series A round that values the company at $150 million, according to TechCrunch. New investors include Conde Nast parent company Advance Publications and Salesforce.com founder Marc Benioff. Existing investors to participate in the funding include Founders FundThrive Capital, and .406 Ventures. Urban Compass has raised $28 million to date.



    Sarah Guo has joined Greylock Partners from the Goldman Sachs investment banking group, where she led coverage of private enterprise technology companies. Guo worked on the IPO of the HR giant Workday, a company that continues to be co-led by Greylock partner Asheem Chanda. According to Greylock, Guo also championed Goldman’s investment in Dropbox and has advised several public companies, including Netflix and Zynga. Her title is “investor.”

    Ellie Wheeler has been promoted to principal at Greycroft Partners, which has offices in both New York and L.A.. Wheeler will continue to be based out of New York, where she works alongside the firm’s managing partner and founder, Alan Patricof, co-founder and partner Ian Sigalow, and partner John Elton.

    Marissa Mayer is getting the unauthorized book treatment care of Business Insider’s deputy editor Nicholas Carson, who has just landed a deal with Hachette Book Group. We’re expecting good stuff. (Now the question is: when does the movie version get made, starring Reese Witherspoon?)

    Benjamin Nye, co-managing partner of Bain Capital Partners, has just been named CEO of the Boston-based software maker VMTurbo, backed by Bain, Highland Capital Partners and Globespan Capital Partners. Nye will continue in his role at Bain. Meanwhile, VMTurbo founder Shmuel Kliger, a former VP of architecture and applied research at EMC, becomes president of the company.

    Anup AroraPaul EdwardsForbes BurttMark Modica, and Daniel Holman have joined Hercules Technology Growth Capital in Palo Alto, Calif., as managing directors. Hercules is a specialty finance firm that provides senior loans to venture-backed companies.



    Ebay’s PayPal has acquired Chicago-based payments gateway Braintree, in an all-cash deal worth $800 million. The six-year-old company had raised roughly $70, including from Accel Partners, New Enterprise Associates, RRE Ventures and Greycroft Partners.

    Automattic, the San Francisco-based parent company of WordPress, has acquired Cloudup, a seed-funded file-sharing service that launched this year and  Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. The purchase represents Automattic’s 12th acquisition. Cloudup’s backers include Bessemer Venture PartnersCharles River VenturesRRE Ventures, and Atlas Venture.



    Enzymotec, an Israel-based company that produces lipid-based food supplements is expected to raise $75 million tomorrow in a public offering, with its shares priced at between $16 and $18. The company is owned by GlenRock IsraelMillennium Material Technologies FundKibbutz Maanit’s Galam Ltd.Ofer Hi-Tech Ltd., and Mexico’s Arancia Industrial SA de CV.

    RingCentral, a San Mateo, Calif.-based company that makes multi-location, multi-user, enterprise-grade communications software, is also expected to go public tomorrow, with its shares offered at between $11 and $13 to garner around $90 million. The company has raised roughly $55 million from Sequoia CapitalKhosla VenturesDAG VenturesScale Venture PartnersSilicon Valley Bank and Cisco.

    Violin Memory, a Mountain View, Calif.-based flash storage company, is expected to begin trading tomorrow at between $8 and $10 per share, which would raise about $160 million. The company’s investors include Highland Capital PartnersSAP VenturesToshiba and Juniper Networks.


    Essential Reads

    Who gets richest when Twitter goes public? Ev Williams. Not enough-to-buy-an-America’s-Cup-team rich, but pretty rich. Bloomberg has the story.

    Reuters columnist Felix Salmon does not approve of SecondMarket‘s new bitcoin fund, warning investors to steer clear.

    Bill Gates finally admits that Control-Alt-Delete was a mistake.



    The former president of Trader Joe’s is opening up a restaurant for expired food.

    A reporter documents her campaign to make 300 sandwiches for her boyfriend, after which he has promised to propose to her. Someone, please bring us a tissue as we follow this sweet, empowering love story.


    Retail Therapy

    Four words: This thing shoots marshmallows.


    Please feel free to send us any and all story suggestions (anonymous or otherwise) by clicking hereIf you’re interested in advertising in our email newsletter, please click here. To sign up for the newsletter, visit strictlyvc.com.

  • StrictlyVC: September 25, 2013

    110611_2084620_176987_imageGood morning! Big day today here in SF, with the America Cup’s race scheduled to start at 1:15 pm PST. We’re hoping for a big win by Oracle Team USA. (We suggest steering clear of Larry Ellison until the race ends to be on the safe side.)


    Top News in the A.M. 

    Amazon has introduced three new Kindle Fire models. CEO Jeff Bezos explains the company’s thinking behind them.

    Chinese Internet company Alibaba is reportedly moving its IPO to the U.S.; the listing could be valued at up to $15 billion.


    Don Dodge on Indoor Marketing: VCs Missing a “Huge” Opportunity

    Don Dodge — a Google Ventures advisor who helps developers build new applications on Google platforms and technologies – says VCs are still outsiders when it comes to indoor mobile location services. He compares the moment to the earliest days of maps and GPS, which are now integrated into just about every application on the Web, but that few investors knew what to do with initially.

    We talked about what’s happening last week.

    You’re very focused on indoor marketing. Why?

    At a very high level, we spend 90 percent of our time indoors, and indoors is where commerce happens.

    What’s among the most interesting things you’re seeing?

    There are a bunch of companies that can create [digital] floor plans of stores like Toys”R”Us, Office Depot and Walgreens. Stores then give them SKU [stock keeping unit] maps that tell them where products are located on the shelves for inventory purposes, then [the apps] use indoor location technology to recognize where a customer is standing. It isn’t too far of a leap to imagine that as you’re looking at the Gucci bags at a department store, you receive a coupon from Coach.

    What strikes you as promising beyond retail applications?

    Think about mobile games that could take of advantage of location, like Risk or Monopoly or Capture the Flag, and how they might incorporate the store or the university dorm room that you’re standing in.

    There are social aspects, too. Say you’re at a concert and know that five friends are there amid 50,000 other people. Indoor location technologies can tell you exactly where those five friends are. And there are probably 400 more examples of market applications that no one has thought about yet.

    There are numerous technical approaches to all of these things, right?

    One is Wi-Fi, where you phone accepts signals and triangulates where you are. WifiSLAM, an indoor GPS company that Apple recently acquired, was one example, but there are about 15 other companies that are doing things with Wi-Fi triangulation.

    Another area is Bluetooth beacons. Every smartphone has Bluetooth to connect to other devices. Well, the same Bluetooth channel can be used to bounce off known locations to determine where you are.

    Other companies are using sound waves, while others still, like Bytelight, are using LED lights in the ceiling. They pulse at a rate of a hundred times a second, which is faster than the human eye can see, but the front-facing camera of a phone can pick up the pulse and know by which light you’re standing.

    Apple reportedly paid $20 million for WiFiSLAM. A number of other companies, including CiscoRuckus Wireless, and Aruba Networks, have acquired indoor technologies for undisclosed amounts. Is there going to be a big breakout story here?

    It won’t be like social, where there are one or two leaders and everyone else is an also-ran. Instead, there will be hundreds of winners because there are so many different market applications and vertical applications.

    And you think VCs are missing all the action. Why?

    There have been at least three major acquisitions over the past four months, so now they’re saying, “Hey, there’s something going here.” But by and large, it’s a new, emerging area, with probably 50 small, unknown startups with angel investment or a little VC money that [other] VCs aren’t paying attention to.

    When you see more stories about companies being acquired by big companies, then there will be a land grab.

    (Readers, for more on indoor marketing, you might want to check out this October 8 summit in San Francisco.)


    New Fundings

    BioDigital, a year-old, New York-based imaging startup focused on 3D visualization of the human body, has raised $4 million led by FirstMark Capital. Much more on the funding can be found here.

    BlueData Software, a Mountain View, Calif.-based startup founded last year by two VMWare executives, has raised $15 million in Series B financing led by Ignition Partners. Previous investors Atlantic Bridge VenturesIntel CapitalAmplify Partners and Data Collective also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $19 million. The company’s first product is being privately tested, and no details have been released yet.

    Moxtra, a Cupertino, Calif.-based company that launched earlier this year, has closed on $10 million in Series A funding from investors that include CiscoKDDI of Japan, China’s Innovation Works, and Starwood Capital‘s Barry Sternlicht. Moxtra. Founded by numerous former WebEx employees, Moxtra’s cloud-based collaboration app allows users to interact across multiple devices.

    NGDATA, a Gent, Belgium-based company that sells its customer intelligence management software to enterprises to better drive sales, has raised $3.3 million in funding led by Capricorn Venture PartnersSniper Investments and several unnamed angel investors also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to date to $5.8 million.

    PatientSafe Solutions, a San Diego-based company focused on patient-safety-related clinical workflow applications, has raised $27 million in Series C funding led by Merck Global Health Innovation Fund. Previous investors Camden Partners, TPG Biotech, Psilos Group and EDBI, the investment unit of theSingapore Economic Development Board, also participated.

    Prosper, the San Francisco-based people-to-people lending marketplace, has raised $25 million, according to a new SEC filing. The Form D list several directors, including Rajeev Date, who once served as Deputy Director of the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Stephan Vermut, a former Wells Fargo executive who became president of Prosper in July of this year, and Chris Bishko, an investment partner at Omidyar Network, are also included in the filing.

    Simplee, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company that is developing a platform for patient payments, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Heritage Group, which was joined by previous investors Greylock Partners Israel and The Social+Capital Partnership. The three-year-old company has raised roughly $18 million to date.

    Socure, a year-old, New York-based startup that verifies online identities through “social biometrics,” has raised $600,000 in seed funding via debt and convertible notes, according to an SEC filing.

    VIPorbit Software, a Dallas-based contact manager for the Apple desktop and device market, has raised $1 million, led by cofounder Max Pucher and Harry Jacobson, a managing partner at TriStar Technology Partners and included nine of the company’s angel investors. The funding brings total financing to date for the three-year-old company to $3.5 million.



    Michael Moritz, the billionaire chairman of Sequoia Capital, has told Forbes that he and his wife, Harriet Heyman, plan to give away their entire fortune during their lifetimes. “We don’t intend to expire with any money in our pocket,” he said. Moritz was speaking to Forbes about $30 million that the couple has just donated to the University of California, San Francisco, to fund an endowment for basic science PhD students. According to Forbes, it’s the largest endowed program for PhD students in the history of the University of California.

    Adrian Fenty, who rose to national prominence as the mayor Washington D.C. between 2007 and 2011, has joined the Palo Alto, Calif., office of law firm Perkins Coie, where he’ll focus on expanding the firm’s emerging company and venture capital practice. Fenty also continues to serve on the boards of two nonprofits and as a special advisor with Andreessen Horowitz, which brought Fenty into the fold one year ago.



    5by, a year-old Montreal-based video startup, has been acquired by StumbleUpon of San Francisco. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the acquisition is the first for StumbleUpon, a popular discovery service for online content.



    Thirteen tech companies are planning to go public this week. Among them:

    Applied Optoelectronics, a Houston-area fiber-optic networking products company, is expected to begin trading publicly tomorrow, with its shares being offered at between $13 and $15. Among those investors planning to sell some of their holdings in the offering — expected to raise $50 million for the company — are Grand River Capital Investment Company, Sycamore Management, and Harbinger III Venture Capital Corp.Corporation. More here.

    Covisint, a Detroit-based cloud engagement platform that is being spun out of Compuware is also expected to begun trading publicly tomorrow. Its shares are being offered at between $9 and $11, with the company planning to raise $64 million from the offering.


    Job Listings

    Merger Partners, a Dallas-based firm that scouts for possible acquisitions for private equity groups and operating companies, is looking for an associate in San Francisco. The role entails everything from cold-calling management teams and business owners to helping deals move toward successful closings. To land it, you’ll need at least three years of experience in either business development and/or sales, PE, corporate finance, commercial lending, investment banking, or venture capital.


    Essential Reads

    If your kids live in California and are under 18, Governor Jerry Brown has given them one last shot at permanently deleting any Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr posts that could otherwise haunt them as college students and beyond.

    Could shared “micro apartments” represent the next wave of the sharing economy?

    Nest Labs, the well-funded, three-year-old maker of a smart thermostat, is working on another way into users’ homes: it’s making smoke detectors.

    Drama in Helsinki, as Nokia begs its former CEO to accept less than the $25 million bonus promised to him (and he says fat chance).



    A therapist shines a light on a little-known problem: brainy, mentally gifted, single-minded boys who are being falsely diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.


    Retail Therapy

    This deep-pocketed Jaktogo jacket enables you to wear all your possessions, including electronic devices. The good news: the jacket could mean fewer baggage fees at the airport. The bad news: the jacket could land you in small, windowless room with TSA officials all day.

    GQ says that “animal prints” are legitimately “in” right now. GQ is often a reliable source for information regarding men’s fashion. This time, do not listen to GQ.


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  • StrictlyVC: September 24, 2013

    Good morning, and thanks very much to the many of you who are now subscribed to StrictlyVC! If you like what we’re up to, please let your friends know that they, too, can sign up right here. (It’s just so easy!) In the meantime, if you want to talk, complain or drop me a hot tip, I’m always available at connie@strictlyvc.com and on Twitter.

    Top News in the A.M.

    Beijing is lifting a ban on Internet access within the Shanghai Free-trade Zone to foreign websites, including Twitter and Facebook.

    Twitter has reportedly chosen to list on the NYSE, in an offering that would value the company at roughly $16 billion.

    The Case for Embracing General Solicitation: VC Edition

    Ask a VC whether top venture firms are liable to take advantage of the new general solicitation rules, and the answer is often a barely suppressed laugh.

    It’s easy to understand why some might look down their noses at the changes. VCs have been operating like a private club for a long time, and they tend to see their publicity-seeking brethren as trendy and desperate.

    But all it takes is a quick skip down memory lane to see how fast some of the most mocked innovations to the VC game have become standard operating procedure for today’s Midas List.

    Take secondary investments. As recently as 2004, selling a stake to a secondary buyer was an admission of defeat. But along came SecondMarket followed by a long string of savvy secondary transactions — like those Groupon shares that NEA offloaded to later investors, or Accel’s partial sale of its Facebook stake to Technology Crossover Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz — and suddenly, you were a dummy if you didn’t take some money off the table.

    And what about marketing? If you’ve been in the industry for more than a decade, you know that many of the most august firms used to avoid reporters like the plague. Then some prescient venture capitalists like Fred Wilson began to build huge followings, and before you knew it, blogs became de rigueur. Andreessen Horowitz took things to another level when it began aggressively courting press attention in 2009. A lot of the firm’s peers privately complained that the firm was sucking all the air out of Silicon Valley, but today, every top firm has an executive or a team of people focused on communications and content strategy.

    The list goes on and on. Seed-stage investing used to be a niche strategy as recently as 2005. Today, there’s a glut of seed-stage investors and seed-funded companies.

    Investment documents used to 100 pages long and cost a fortune. Now, many startups use standardized Web templates that they can tweak to their heart’s content.

    Successful entrepreneurs were outsiders in VC circles; now many have an easier time raising new venture funds than traditional firms.

    Do you see where this is going? Yes, the prospect of advertising may seem outlandish right now, but so did a lot of these other trends.

    On the plus side, if advertising can speed up a team’s fundraising process, VCs should have more time to make more money for their partnerships.

    And themselves.


    New Fundings

    UniversityNow, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company that is parent company to two online universities, has raised $19 million in Series C funding from lead investors Bertelsmann SE & Co. KGaA and First Analysis Corp were the lead investors. Existing investors University Ventures, Novak Biddle Venture Partners, Kapor Capital and Bronze Investments also participated in the round.

    SimilarGroup, a Tel Aviv-based company that produces an online Web measurement tool called SimilarWeb, has raised $3.5 million in funding, an extension of its Series B round, led by angel investor Lord David Alliance, who is chairman of the clothing catalog retailer N Brown Group. The company has raised $7 million to date. More here.

    SafeShot Technologies, a two-year-old, Menlo Park, Calif.-based company that develops safety syringes, has raised $6 million in funding. The financing is part of a $3 million round that SafeShot raised a year ago. The company hasn’t publicly disclosed who its backers are.

    AIQ, a Clifton, N.J.-based publisher of financial advisor directories, has received an undisclosed amount of funding from Stonehenge Growth Equity. Earlier this year, the company raised $5 million Series A round from Penton Media.

    Mobincube, a five-year-old, Valencia, Spain-based startup whose software allows users to create apps, has raised 700,000 euros (approximately $946,000) in seed funding led by Inveready. The round also included The Crowd Angel and Bankinter.

    RainDance Technologies, a nine-year-old company based in Lexington, Mass., has secured up to $35 million in a structure debt agreement with Capital Royalty Partners. The funding comes on the heels of two sizable equity rounds: a $37 million round in 2011 and a $20 million round that was announced in April of this year. RainDance has created a system a system for performing lab experiments using minuscule amounts of material and has raised more th$100 million in venture capital to date.

    MediSafe, a medication-compliance company that participated in Microsoft’s accelerator program last year, has raised $1 million in funding, led by Israeli venture firms TriVentures and Lool Ventures. The company is based in Haifa, Israel and has an office in San Francisco.

    PreCision Dermatology, a Cumberland, RI.-based company whose therapies are designed to improve skin care, has raised $67 million in debt from Golub Capital to fuel its acquisition plans. The company has already made one major acquisition, last year buying up the assets of Triax Pharmaceuticals of Cranford, N.J., maker of a popular topic steroid and several acne treatments. The terms of that deal were not disclosed, but investors led by Essex Woodlands, MidCap Financial, and NovaQuest Capital Management had help support the acquisition.


    Foundation Medicine, a Cambridge, Mass.-based company whose molecular information platform generates genomic information about a person’s individual cancer, is expected to begin trading publicly tomorrow at a range of between $14 and $16 per share. Three-year-old Foundation has raised roughly $100 million, including from Third Rock VenturesGoogle VenturesKleiner Perkins Caufield & ByersBill Gates, Digital Sky Technology founder Yuri Milner, and others. The company is looking to raise around $75 million.

    Evoke Pharma, a six-year-old, San Diego-based biotech company that develops drugs to treat gastrointestinal disorders and diseases, is also expected to begin trading publicly tomorrow. The company, which is majority owned by Domain Partners and LVP Life Science Ventures, plans to raise $27 million by offering 2.1 million shares at a price range of $12 to $14.

    Motley Fool asks: Could Comixology, the comic book company, be the next “IPO multibagger?” If so, its founders could see a windfall. According to Crunchbase, the six-year-old company has raised just $150,000 in debt.

    Fund News

    Now that Dell is going private, its corporate venture arm is “revving up,” reports Deborah Gage of the WSJ.


    Zal Bilimoria has joined Andreessen Horowitz as a new partner focused on identifying, evaluating, and recommending deals to the firm’s GPs, reports PandoDaily. Bilimoria joins Andreessen Horowitz from LinkedIn, where he was a senior product manager. Before joining LinkedIn last summer, he worked as a product manager at Netflix, Google, and Microsoft.

    SynapDx, a venture-backed startup in Lexington, Mass., has a new VP of informatics in Mark DePristo, who joins from the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Three-year-old SynapDx develops laboratory diagnostic services for autism and neurodevelopmental disorders and is backed by North Bridge Venture Partners, General Catalyst Partners, Google Ventures, Foundation Medical Partners, LabCorp, The Kraft Group, Casdin Capital and Windham Venture Partners.

    Tenex Health, a Lake Forest, Calif.-based startup that’s trying to pioneer minimally invasive therapies for the removal of diseased soft tissue, has a new CEO: Jay Hallinan, who takes the reins on October 21. Hallinan was most recently a senior sales executive at Stryker Neurovascular; he has also held sales roles at 3M, Medtronic, and Boston Scientific. To date, Tenex has raised roughly $17 million from investors.


    Blackberry is selling itself to a consortium led by its biggest shareholder, Fairfax Financial, which already owns 10 percent of the troubled smartphone maker. The deal is valued at roughly $4.7 billion, or $9 per share, a slight premium to where Blackberry’s stock was trading before it was halted, pending the news. You can learn more about questions raised by the deal here.

    Job Listings

    Silicon Valley Bank is hiring a valuation associate in San Francisco. The role entails what you’d guess it would: conducting research on companies, investment trends, and tech trends. You also need basic finance skills, basic accounting knowledge, and working knowledge of biology, chemistry and the regulatory environment.

    Essential Reads

    This self-taught programmer’s software is now being used by every single coach in pro basketball.

    In a poll taken over the weekend about the looming debt-ceiling crisis and government shutdown, most Americans said that they were “totally excited about the new iPhone 5s.”

    Whether you think it’s great or creepy, a memory-erasing technology might not be all that far off, observes Vanity Fair.


    Doug Band was once President Clinton’s “body man.” But as he builds out his own business, he’s becoming a serious thorn in the Clintons’ side, reports the New Republic in a long but fascinating profile.

    Retail Therapy

    Neat. Create an old-school desk set-up for your iPhone with this cool handset stand.

    Everything you’ll be needing for Armageddon, including thermal vision cameras, a rifle scope, a knife and a giant poster of a zombie — so you’ll recognize what’s trying to eat you at the end of days.


    Please feel free to send us any and all story suggestions (anonymous or otherwise) by clicking hereIf you’re interested in advertising in our email newsletter, please click here. To sign up for the newsletter, visit strictlyvc.com.



  • StrictlyVC: September 23, 2013

    110611_2084620_176987_imageGood morning, and happy Monday! If you haven’t signed up yet for StrictlyVC, you can do that here. If you want to chat about anything, email me at connie@strictlyvc.com or find me on Twitter.

    Top News in the A.M.

    General solicitation rules are different as of today. Here’s why startups need to pay attention to what, specifically, has changed.

    Can Jack Hidary Hack New York’s Mayoral Race?

    Jack Hidary is a wealthy tech entrepreneur who wants to be mayor of New York City and is running as an independent. At first blush, he seems to have much in common with New York’s billionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg, a Democrat turned Republican turned independent.

    But Bloomberg spent $73 million of his own money to get himself elected the first time around. Hidary has so far raised $450,000. Bloomberg began campaigning early. Hidary, 45, announcing he was running just two months ago. Bloomberg courted nearly everyone; Hidary has been doing more “targeted” campaigning. As told me in a phone call last week, “I have increased name recognition in the core communities that we need.”

    In Hidary’s view, there’s an opportunity to hack the election by leveraging both his tech base and his background. Born in Brooklyn to a Spanish-speaking Columbian mother, Hidary went on to cofound two companies. The first, EarthWeb, an IT information and jobs site, went public in 1998, four years after opening for business. (It was taken private in 2000 and sold again in 2005 as Dice.com to private equity investors.) Hidary also cofounded the financial information company Vista Research, which sold to Standard & Poor in 2005.

    Since entering the race in mid-July, Hidary has attracted support from many who like his biggest promise: to champion entrepreneurship and create jobs across all five of New York’s boroughs. Among those who’ve lent their support, says Hidary, are Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures; investors Joanne and Wilson (also of USV); Jim Robinson of RRE Ventures; and Charlie Kim, the founder and CEO Next Jump, a New York-based tech company that powers reward programs.

    Still, it’s far from clear that Hidary’s concentrated tactics are working. His team is using CampaignGrid, a venture-backed, data-driven ad platform to deliver pre-roll online video to “specific target markets.” Hidary has also begun running Spanish-language TV ads on various cable channels, including Telemundo. Says Hidary, “We’re using a combination of channels in a more efficient way” than Republican nominee Joseph Lhota and Democratic front-runner Bill de Blasio.

    But being efficient has its own costs. Hidary is still being called “the New York mayoral candidate you probably haven’t heard of.” Even sources in New York’s tech community tell me they’re waiting for him to gather more traction outside of his insular tech circle before more publicly getting behind him.

    Long shot as Hidary may seem, stranger things have happened, particularly in a race where the current leading candidate, de Blasio, is widely seen as part-time populist, and not a terribly tech friendly one at that.

    As Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures puts it: “How friendly will Bill de Blasio be to companies like Uber and Halio when he’s taking money from the taxi lobby?  Will he support consumers who rent their rooms on Airbnb or side with the hotels?”


    New Fundings

    Flipboard, the popular app for browsing news and social media on phones and tablet, has raised $50 million in new funding, in a round led by Rizvi Traverse Management and Goldman Sachs, reports AllThingsD. The new funding puts the valuation of the Palo Alto, Calif., company at $800 million, says the report.

    AngelList, the San Francisco-based online network for investors and entrepreneurs, has raised $24 million at a valuation “in the $150 million range,” reports Dan Primack of Fortune. Among the many investors in the deal is Atlas Venture, Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and dozens of individual investors, including venture capitalist Marc Andreessen and Twitter cofounder Ev Williams.

    Darktrace, a U.K.-based cyber defense platform that tricks hackers to expose them, has raised $20 million from Invoke Capital, the new, $1 billion venture capital firm spearheaded by former Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch. Lynch has been accused of misrepresenting financial results to Hewlett-Packard, which acquired Autonomy in 2011; he says the claims have no merit. Darktrace is the first investment of Invoke, which includes many of Lynch’s former staff at Autonomy.

    Apmetrix, a San Diego-based company focused on cross-platform high-end video game and mobile app analytics, has raised an undisclosed seed amount from Analytics VenturesLa Costa Investment Group, and KI Investment Holdings.

    Bugsnag, a San Francisco-based company that has built a crash monitoring platform for apps, has raised $1.4 million in seed funding led by Matrix Partners, with individuals investors including Andy McLoughlin and Jason Seats participating.

    Visualead, a mobile page design platform startup based in Tel Aviv, has raised $1.6 million in Series A funding. Kaedan Capital and Entrée Capital led the round.


    It’s a good time to be a newly public company. According to research firm IPO Scoop, 139 companies have gone out (as of this past Friday). Of that lot, 101 companies are trading at above their share price, and the total return from the issue price averages 34.27 percent.

    FireEye, the cybersecurity software maker that went public on Friday, priced its shares at $20; they opened at $40.30 and closed at $36, raising around $300 million. Early backers of the company include Sequoia Capital and Norwest Venture Partners.

    Shares of Rocket Fuel, a San Francisco-based ad tech company, opened at $59.95 on Friday, more than double their IPO offering price. They shot as high as $62.50 before closing the day at $56.10, raising around $116 million. The company’s venture investors include Mohr Davidow Venures, Labrador Ventures, and Northgate Capital.

    Veracyte, a seven-year-old, South San Francisco-based company that develops diagnostics for thyroid and non-small cell lung cancer, has filed an S-1 with the SEC. The company has raised about $56 million to date, including from Domain Partners, which owns 19.3 percent of the company; Versant Ventures, which owns 22.6 percent of the company; TPG, which owns 22.2 percent, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which also owns 22.2 percent of the company.


    On Friday, Kieran Taylor, a former Akamai senior director of marketing, was fined and banned by the SEC from serving as a public company officer or director, to settle charges that he helped funnel illegal tips to Raj Rajaratnam, the hedge fund manager imprisoned for insider trading.

    Ayla Networks, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company cloud platform company, has hired Michael Maeso as VP of worldwide sales. Maeso has has been a sales exec at numerous startups in the past, including July Systems, Cotendo (acquired by Akamai), and VitalStream (acquired by Internap). Ayla is backed by Voyager Capital and Crosslink Capital.

    New Fund News

    Iconiq Capital, a months-old San Francisco-based investment firm that invests on behalf of wealthy families, has raised a new, $10 million fund called Iconiq Strategic Partners Co-Invest, L.P., BL, according to a new SEC filing. Presumably, the funds have gone or will go to the firm’s new investment in BlackLine Systems, an L.A.-based company that produces accounting software and which raised an undisclosed amount of funding last month from Iconiq and Silver Lake Sumeru, Silver Lake’s middle market group.

    Iconiq was formed earlier this year by Will Griffith, who spent a dozen years at Technology Crossover Ventures and left in January. Iconiq first surfaced in an SEC filing back in May. Griffith has since hired his old TCV colleagueMatthew Jacobson, who left TCV in 2008 to join Groupon. Jacobson had left Groupon in June of last year and was an working as an investor at Battery Ventures before joining Griffith.

    Job Listings

    Baxter Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Baxter International, is looking for a managing director. The job is in Deerfield, Ill., about 25 miles north of Chicago, and to apply, you need previous experience in a VC role, established relationships with medical device VCs, and some board experience.

    Essential Reads

    Margit WennmachersAndreessen Horowitz‘s famously no-nonsense marketing partner, is profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle, which calls her one of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley. Wennmachers tells the paper of her firm: “We’re so connected, it’s the equivalent of the White House.”

    If Twitter is the last splashy IPO for a while, that’s perfectly okay with Silicon Valley investors, they insist. “We might not get the mega-IPOs after Twitter, but lots of start-ups are solving real problems now,” one tells the Sunday Telegraph.

    Want to give yourself five stars online? It might cost you, notes the New York Times. Today, New York regulators are announcing the most comprehensive crackdown to date on deceptive reviews on the Internet.


    Maria Konnikova of the New Yorker presents a compelling case against redshirting your kid, writing: “While earlier studies have argued that redshirted children do better both socially and academically — citing data on school evaluations, leadership positions, and test scores — more recent analyses suggest that the opposite may well be the case.”

    Billionaire George Soros gets hitched again. (Yes, there’s a prenup in place. William Zabel, Soros’s attorney, told the New York Post last year that he will “leave the bulk of his estate to charity but he intends to provide generously for his wife.”)

    Extreme bravery in action by a husband-and-wife pair of photojournalists. (Warning: this link contains some graphic images of that massacre at an upscale mall in Nairobi on Saturday.)

    Retail Therapy

    Check out this elegant, ridiculous breathalyzer. There’s no better way to convey to your passengers that you tend to drink a lot.

    Bonobos makes these pants out of beer bottles (and water and juice and soda bottles and old TV trays). You’ll probably sweat a ton, but you’ll look great and you’ll be helping to save the environment. Sort of.

    Please feel free to send us any and all story suggestions (anonymous or otherwise) by clicking hereIf you’re interested in advertising in our email newsletter, please click here. To sign up for the newsletter, visit strictlyvc.com.


  • StrictlyVC: September 20, 2013

    110611_2084620_176987_imageTop News in the A.M.

    Yesterday the California Public Utilities Commission approved the first statewide guidelines in the U.S. for ride-sharing services. The guidelines address things like driver background checks that car companies like Lyft and Sidecar have been implementing from the get-go. But by agreeing to allow the services’ drivers to operate freely as long as they agree to the guidelines, the agency is signaling to the startups that it’s full steam ahead.
    Dow Jones and its influential AllThingsD unit are officially parting ways, with Dow Jones keeping the AllThingsD brand and AllThingsD co-executive editors Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher keeping the AllThingsD readers (presumably). The question is where we can find them, after Dec. 31, when their contract ends. Reportedly, they’re right now in talks with potential backers about an investment that would value their new venture between $30 million and $40 million.
    Kleiner, Ellen Pao, and the Reddit Factor

    It’s looking like Kleiner Perkins will have to hash it out in court with former partner Ellen Pao, who filed an explosive gender-discrimination lawsuit against the venture firm in May of last year.

    This Wednesday, Kleiner was denied its request to move the case to arbitration.

    In response, Kleiner told the Mercury News yesterday that it will “vigorously defend the matter” and is “confident we will prevail.”

    But Pao’s current job of building strategic partnerships at the social news site Reddit may throw an unexpected wrench into Kleiner’s defense.

    As industry watchers may recall, in October of last year, roughly five months after Pao filed her suit — in which she clams she was repeatedly denied opportunities to advance or pay raises — Pao was abruptly terminated by Kleiner, she said. Kleiner has always disputed the characterization, saying it asked Pao to leave “because of long-standing issues having no relationship or bearing on the litigation.”

    But now that the case is no longer under appeal, her attorney told the Mercury News yesterday that he’s planning to add a wrongful termination claim to the lawsuit.

    Legal experts have told me that Pao’s Reddit gig could work to her advantage in her case against her former employer. For one thing, anyone who claims retaliation in a discrimination case has a duty to look for a job. Joining Reddit could show that Pao tried limiting the financial damage to herself and secured a job under difficult circumstances (i.e., in the middle of a media circus).

    Landing the role could also boost Pao’s credibility and make her more believable to a jury, according to employment attorneys; they say that juries want to know, “Can this person work for someone else?”

    In cases like these, employment attorneys argue that the burden of proof is always on the employer, and retaliation claims are often more powerful and easier to prove than actual discrimination claims.

    And to make matters even worse, Kleiner could be on the hook for more damages than when Pao originally filed her lawsuit as an employee.

    For Kleiner, it seems, the Pao case is a nightmare that just will not end.

    New Fundings

    NewVoiceMedia, a 13-year-old, cloud-based contact and call center company in the U.K., has raised a $35 million Series C round, led Bessemer Venture Partners. Existing investors Highland Capital Partners EuropeEden Ventures and Notion Capital also participated in the financing, which was company’s second this year. In January, NewVoiceMedia announced that it had raised $20 million in Series B funding from investors. Altogether, it has raised $61.3 million.

    Branding Brand, a Pittsburgh-based mobile commerce platform that powers the mobile sites and apps for retail customers, has raised $9.5 million in Series B funding. Existing investor Insight Venture Partners led the round with participation from CrunchFundLead Edge Capital and eBay Enterprise. The company had raised a $7.5 million Series A round in October of last year.

    Unmetric, whose software enables its customers to analyze their customers’ social media efforts, has raised a $5.5 million Series B round led by Jafco Asia. Earlier investor Nexus Venture Partners also participated in the financing.

    Plaid has raised $2.8 million to grow its API for banks. (It makes banks’ data more accessible to developers so that they can ultimately create new applications around that information.) Spark Capital led the round, which also included Homebrew Capital, Google Ventures, Felicis Ventures, and NEA.


    Gigya — a Mountain View, Calif.-based firm that specializes in social data management, has raised $35 million in new funding led by Greenspring Associates. Previous investors Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures, Advance Publications, and Mayfield Fund also participated in the round. The company has now raised roughly $70 million from investors over the last six years.


    Mindshare Technologies, a Salt Lake City-based company that tracks customers with online and phone surveys, has acquired Empathica, a competitor based in Ontario, Canada. Both companies have attracted venture funding. Empathica had raised $7 million in Series A funding from JMI Equity back in 2006. Mindshare raised a $20 million round from the private equity firm Sorenson Capital in 2011. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

    Google has acquired most of the team and assets of San Francisco-based Hattery, reports Dan Primack of Fortune. The joint digital innovation lab/venture capital firm founded was founded by former Google employees Josh Mendelsohn, Joshua To, and Luis Arbulu. Google is not acquiring any equity in the six projects Hattery has been helping to create and shape.


    Billionaire Hong Kong investor Li Ka-shing is apparently poised to shake up Asian markets with a planned $700 million IPO for Westports Holdings Bhd., a Malaysian port operator of which he owns roughly 30 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. The planned October offering of the port operator, which oversees one of Asia’s busiest shipping terminals, is expected to reignite Malaysia’s deal market, which was home to some of the world’s largest IPOs last year.

    Shares of Acceleron Pharma, a 10-year-old, Cambridge, Mass.-based company that’s developing therapies for cancer and rare diseases, soared by one-third in their first day of trading yesterday. The shares, which closed up 33 percent, at $19.99, are owned predominately by venture capitalists, who had poured $105.1 million into the company over the years. According to an SEC filing, the company’s largest shareholder after the offering is Polaris Venture Partners, which owns a 12.1 percent stake. Venrock PartnersAdvanced Technology Ventures, and Flagship Ventures are among the company’s other major shareholders.


    Intel Capital has promoted three investment managers to managing director to oversee four new areas for the venture arm. Rob RueckertKen Elefant, and Ramamurthy Sivakumar will now be scouting for deals in the areas of data center software; new devices and wearables; security; and ultrabooks and perceptual computing.

    Bitcasa, a two-year-old, cloud storage startup that’s based in Mountain View, Calif., has a new CEO: Brian Taptich, who was most recently the VP of international development at Zynga. Taptich replaces Bitcasa co-founder Tony Gauda. Bitcasa has raised $8.5 million over two rounds, from investors that include Samsung Ventures, First Round Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Crunchfund, and Pelion Venture Partners.

    Job Listings

    PriceWaterhouseCoopers is hiring a senior associate in L.A.

    Essential Reads

    Reporter Brad Stone writes about Joy Covey, Amazon’s first CFO and someone who plainly lived life to its fullest until her death on Wednesday, when she was struck by a car during a bicycle ride in Silicon Valley.


    A father tries doing his 13-year-old daughter’s seemingly insurmountable mountain of homework for a week. It’s not a pretty exercise.

    Retail Therapy

    AllSaints T-shirts, for those autumn days you want to feel like you’re 12 years old again.

    Bourbon marshmallows. We wouldn’t suggesting actually eating one of these, but you’ll get points for being creative if you take them to a party!


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  • StrictlyVC: September 19, 2013

     rainbowTop News in the A.M.

    Apple CEO Tim Cook: Sorry for any confusion, people, but “we never had an objective to sell a low-cost phone.”

    Dropcam, the $50M Startup That Should Keep ADT Awake at Night 

    Dropcam is watching you.

    To date, the four-year-old startup has raised $47.8 million for its HD wireless home-monitoring cameras that allow consumers to watch the kids from the office, glimpse which neighbor isn’t picking up after his dog, or catch break-ins.

    Greg Duffy, Dropcam’s 26-year-old cofounder and CEO, won’t disclose how many of the company’s $150 cameras the company has sold, but he will say that the company is enjoying “5x” year-over-year revenue growth from a “significant sample of users” that “cut across nearly every demographic.”

    That’s a lot of video. The company claims that it uploads more video each day than YouTube.

    What Dropcam plans to do with all that video is where things get interesting. At Dropcam’s San Francisco offices, where 45 people are now employed, Duffy hints that Dropcam will soon dip its toe into the lucrative realm of home security.

    It makes perfect sense. It also puts the company’s funding into perspective.

    Right now, 40 percent of Dropcam’s customers pay $9.99 or $99 per year to save up to seven days of footage costs, partly for home security purposes.

    Duffy believes Dropcam can capture a much larger piece of the home security pie because, in his view, it’s a market that’s just waiting to be disrupted  Not only are the “ADTs of the world” “generally stuck in past eras of technology,” but “they charge you insanely high prices for a very simple service,” he notes.

    ADT’s most basic plan — which includes a motion detector, two wireless door or window sensors, and a wireless key fob that enables users to control the system – costs $42.99 per month, a $300 installation fee and requires a three-year commitment. More “advanced” services — including stored video footage and email alerts — cost $57.99 a month, with a $500 installation fee and a three-year contract.

    That’s big business: ADT has a market cap of $8.7 billion dollars.

    Companies like ADT “make you think that to keep your family safe, you need to pay for something that’s essentially as expensive as a cell phone and requires [an even longer] contract,” Duffy says. “But it costs them nothing to deliver the service, and using today’s technology, you could deliver [the same service] for a fraction of the price.”

    Dropcam’s investors — Institutional Venture Partners, Accel Partners, and Kleiner Perkins, among others — evidently think so, too.

    SigmaWest Has Moved to SF!

    New Fundings

    Illumio, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based cloud security startup that remains largely in stealth mode, has closed a $34 million Series B round led by General Catalyst Partners, which was joined by Formation 8. Andreessen Horowitz, which led the companies $8 million Series A funding earlier this year, also participated, as did individual investors Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.com, and Box CEO Aaron Levie.

    StrongLoop, a San Mateo, Calif.-base company, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Shasa Ventures and Ignition Partners, a round that brings its total funding to $9 million SrongLoop develops a backend-as-a-service (MBaaS) that uses Node.js as a platform for developing mobile apps in the cloud or in the data center. The company has named Issac Roth as CEO. Meanwhile, Jason Pressman of Shasta and Nick Sturiale of Ignition have joined the company’s board.

    Stackdriver, a Boston-based company, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by Flybridge Capital Partners. Bain Capital Ventures, which provided the company with $5 million in Series A funding last year, also participated. Stackdriver enables its customers to better manage their cloud-powered applications, including by mapping relationships between the customers’ system, application, and infrastructure resources.

    Remind101, a San Francisco-based startup that aims to provide teachers with a safe way to text message students and stay in touch with their parents has raised $3.5 million. The Series A round was led by the Social + Capital Partnership, with famed Internet investor Yuri Milner participating. The money follows a $1 million seed round that came from First Round Capital and numerous individual investors last year.

    Syntertainment, a Berkeley, Calif.-based new gaming startup that reportedly focuses on “individual lives,” has raised a $5 million Series A round from investors that include Andreessen Horowitz and former Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello.

    Cargomatic, an L.A-based startup that appears to be the Uber of the trucking business — it promises to “provide on-demand, pre-screened trucks where and when” shippers need them — has raised $900,000 as part of an expected $1.75 million financing. Investors include the company’s founder and CEO, Jonathan Kessler, and Brett Parker, the chief operating officer of the transportation company Savon Freight.

    Crave, a San Francisco-based company that produces “discreet and elegant” sex toys, has raised $2.4 million in Series A funding, including the venture firm Chaotic Ventures and individual investors.

    Deliv, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company focused on providing same-day delivery services, has raised $6.85 million in Series A funding from new investors Upfront Ventures and RPM Ventures. Previous investors in the company’s $1 million seed round, including Redpoint Ventures, Trinity Ventures, PivotNorth Capital, General Catalyst Partners and the Operator’s Fund, also participated.


    At least some limited partners are making big bucks on Groupon. According to AllthingsD, NEA, Groupon’s first institutional investor (it backed Groupon with $4.8 million in 2008) distributed 20 million shares of the company to investors on Friday. The shares are worth roughly $225 at their current trading price of $11.35.

    New Fund News

    Benu BioVentures, based in Natick, Mass., launched this week, after being spun out of Benu BioPharma, a management and consulting company that focuses on biotechs and medical device startups. The outfit’s cofounders, Dennis Goldberg and Fred Meyer, tell the Boston Business Journal that they intend to invest in human biopharmaceuticals, and their initial investments will be in the “mid-single-digit million” range.

    Job Listings

    Silicon Valley Bank is on the search for an associate to add to its corporate venture group to source and qualify potential new opportunities for the firm. Among the job’s requirements: knowledge of the VC ecosystem and at last one or two years of experience in finance or banking.

    Essential Reads

    Kleiner Perkins gets some bad news, as California’s highest court rejects its efforts to take former partner Ellen Pao’s case against it to arbitration.

    Time asks whether it’s time for Arthur Levinson to step down as the chairman of Apple’s board, given that Levinson — the chairman and former CEO of Genentech — is becoming CEO of a new, Google-backed health-focused venture called Calico. “There is something about this that feels uncomfortable,” says board expert Lucy Marcus of Levinson’s continuing ties to both companies.

    The Economist takes a quick look at why the ambitions of Western firms in emerging markets far exceed their efforts.

    New research suggests that established — versus temporary — teams can become too comfortable.


    The snark monsters of Silicon Valley.

    Retail Therapy

    Witness the world’s first, truly elegant water filter, when you’ve already spent a fortune on your home/office anyway.

    And hey, a sensor that attaches to your golf club and breaks down your speed, angle and acceleration. Maybe now, you can Nate Silver your way to a better back nine!


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  • StrictlyVC: September 18, 2013

    good morning!Top News in the A.M.

    Apple finally gets some good publicity again, with tech columnist Walt Mossberg pronouncing the new iPhone 5s the “best smartphone on the market.”

    Stewart Alsop on Introducing 18-Year-Olds to VC

    Longtime VC Stewart Alsop believes “people in their 30s and 40s should work.” And by work, he means outside of venture capital. “You should be in a company,” Alsop, 61, explains over breakfast in San Franciso’s Hayes Valley neighborhood. “Your value comes from your work experience. If you sit around a board of directors’ table, and you don’t have experience and a network and a point of view and a domain that you know, you don’t bring any value.”

    The stance is somewhat ironic, given that Alsop and his partners at Alsop-Louie Partners have been introducing exceedingly young people into the clubby world of VC since shortly after the firm’s 2006 founding. It was then that the firm begin working with college students, transforming them into part-time campus spies and calling them “associates.”

    “The [students] are all, generally speaking, 18 or older,” Alsop tells me, dipping into his eggs. “But they’re younger than the drinking age, so we consider them our kids, and we take care of them,” including “teaching them about employment and taxes and stuff like that.”

    Alsop-Louie is hardly alone in bringing college students into the fold. Though the firm is well known for tapping students to help them identify talent, a growing number of venture firms are finding creative ways to identify the next Mark Zuckerberg. Andreessen Horowitz employs an in-house “college talent manager.” Insight Venture Partners employs students as analysts on a full-time basis during the summer. Meanwhile, numerous firms, including Highland Capital Partner and Lerer Ventures, have student-focused summer programs. (Lerer Ventures even calls its program Summer School VC.)

    It’s become so competitive on college campuses that Alsop-Louie had to remove a Stanford student who was a finalist for their program after it learned the candidate was already involved in another venture firm’s student program.  (“We wouldn’t want someone in our firm out talking with other people,” explains Alsop.)

    The question is what impact such programs are having on students involved in these programs. Alsop-Louie hires college students as sophomores, so they can spend three years playing VC. It’s enough time to figure out who’s who on campus, says Alsop. Yet it’s also enough time to begin envisioning a career in venture capital, an industry that’s shrinking, not growing. Is exposing them to a life that most can’t have fair?

    Alsop tells me about the numerous former associates – out of 13 to date – who remain close to the firm. Corey Reese, the firm’s first recruit at UC Berkeley, is today CEO of Ness Computing, a personalized search engine that was incubated at Alsop-Louie. It has since raised $20 million from an investor group including Singapore Telecom, American Express, and NTB Docomo.

    Another former campus associate, Eli Chait, is the cofounder and CEO of Copilot Labs in San Francisco. The company, which provides real-time marketing intelligence information to restaurants, raised $2 million last summer from undisclosed investors.

    Yet another recent UC graduate is working as an engineer at one of Alsop-Louie’s portfolio companies. And the list goes on.

    “They each have an innate interest in tech and in venture,” says Alsop.

    And yes, some of them hope to become venture capitalists out of college. “They do think that,” Alsop acknowledges. But he says that the firm quickly “beats it out of them” and pushes them to think instead about what else they really want to do.

    “We make it clear that this isn’t a job that teaches you anything,” he adds with a laugh.


    New Fundings

    Tiger Global Management has just taken a bigger bite out of Automattic, parent company of the WordPress blogging platform. According to the WSJ, New York-based Tiger just paid $60 million  for a secondary stake in Automattic, after making a $50 million investment in the company in May. Other interesting details in the piece: Tiger, along with Iconiq Capital — which itself just picked up $15 million in shares — has now bought out the entire stake of one of Automattic’s earliest investors, Polaris Partners. Perhaps it’s no wonder. WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg tells reporter Evelyn Rusli that the company’s valuation is now 25 percent higher than it was in May.

    Bright , a San Francisco-based startup whose job platform analyzes thousands of data points, including education, location, and additional certifications to connect job candidates with jobs, has raised $14 million. The Series B round was led by Toba Capital and included previous investors, such as John Burbank of Passport Capital. Bright, founded in 2009, has raised $20 million to date.

    Recommind, a San Francisco-based software company founded in 2000, has raised a $15 million, Series C round from SAP Ventures . Recommind’s predictive analytics software focuses on unstructured, human-generated data like email, voicemail and social media, and this new round brings its total funding to date to $22.5 million.

    Zipments, a three-year-old, New York-based same-day delivery service, has raised $2.25 million in seed funding. FirstMark Capital and Huron River Ventures were the lead investors, with Windquest Group, New York City Economic Development Corporation, Chicago Ventures and CEO Robert Safrata of Novex Couriers, participating alongside them.

    Simplilearn, an online certification and training site for working professionals, announced yesterday that it has raised $10 million in Series B funding from Helion Venture Partners and Kalaari Capital. The company, which was founded in Bangalore and now has an office in Houston, has received funding in the past from the Bangalore-based venture firm IndoUS Ventures.

    StrikeAd, a London- and New York-based mobile advertising startup, has raised $7 million in fresh funding led by Karlin Ventures , a relatively new firm in L.A. that focuses on early-stage investments, including in digital media. Other new investors in the round included Canyon Creek Capital and Scentan Ventures in Singapore. Existing investors also participated in the funding, including DFJ Esprit, Softech VC and Siemer Ventures. Altogether, three-year-old StrikeAd has raised $13.5 million.

    Cool Planet Energy Systems , a Camarillo, Calif.- based company that’s building small-scale biorefineries for fuel production, has raised $19.4 million in a D round from North Bridge Venture Partners, Shea Ventures, BP, and Google Ventures, among others. The funding comes just four months after a separate, $30 million round was closed by the company and will be used, in part, to begin construction of its first commercial refinery, in Louisiana.


    Hightail, the file-sharing startup formerly known as YouSendIt, has acquired AdeptCloud of San Mateo, Calif., which produces cloud-managed private collaboration software and had raised less than a million dollars in funding from Formative Ventures and Entrepreneurs’ Fund III. The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Hightail, based in Campbell, Calif., has raised roughly $50 million in funding over the last nine years. Among its backers are Alloy Ventures, Cambrian Ventures, Adams Street Partners, Emergence Capital Partners, Sevin Rosen Funds, and Sigma Partners.


    FirstMark Capital of New York City has two new venture partners: Rick Nucci and Josh Abramson.  Nucci co-founded the SaaS integration startup Boomi, which FirstMark helped back and that sold to Dell in 2010. Abramson co-founded Connected Ventures, the parent company of the CollegeHumor Network, which spawned Big Shocker, Busted Tees, CollegeHumor, Defunker, and Vimeo. (Connected Ventures was acquired by IAC – which purchased a 51 percent stake in the company — back in 2006.) FirstMark has a post about its expanded team here.

    The investment bank Duff & Phelps has a new president: Jacob Silverman, who joined the firm nine years ago and became its head of investment banking in March 2011, after serving as its CFO for five years.

    Jeff Sandquist, senior director of developer relations at Microsoft, is joining Twitter as director of platform partnerships. He announced the move in a tweet, adding that “change invigorates the soul.”

    New Fund News

    Venture Investors , an life sciences-focused venture firm based in Madison, Wi., has raised $80 million for its fifth venture capital firm. The total is roughly half of the $150 million that the firm set out to raise, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The firm’s fourth fund closed on $118 million, the biggest early-stage fund ever raised in Wisconsin, says the paper.

    Job Listings

    Canaan Partners is looking to hire an analyst to join its Menlo Park IT team. The job is a two- to three-year, pre-MBA role, and technology company experience and/or a technical or quantitative degree is highly preferred, says the firm.

    Essential Reads

    Yesterday, the Census Bureau released its annual update on income, poverty, and health-insurance coverage, and the numbers are troubling, to say the least. The New Yorker breaks it down for readers . In 1973, a typical middle-class household earned $48,557 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Last year, the typical household earned almost exactly the same amount, or $51,017.


    Evidently, the U.S. has exactly six billionaire bachelors. (So far.)

    CNET cofounder Halsey Minor’s $25 million mansion is finally off the super-hot San Francisco real estate market after several steep price cuts. (Any guesses who the buyer might be?)

    Eradicating double chins: it may be the next half-billion dollar business.

    The New Republic argues, provocatively, for parents to stop forcing their kids to learn a musical instrument. It’s 2013, not 1860, says writer Mark Oppenheimer. You no longer need a “violin-playing daughter” to “cement” your social status.

    Retail Therapy.

    They exist! Tangle-free headphones! [Happy screams.]


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