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Top News in the A.M.
The FCC wants to police your Internet provider. But, erm, so does the FTC. This is getting awkward, reports the Washington Post.
They say you can never be too thin. Not true.
Amplify.LA Turns the Accelerator Model Inside Out (Completely)
Since Y Combinator first swung open its doors nine years ago, hundreds of accelerator programs have sprung into existence, almost all modeled in similar fashion — holding classes at certain times of the year, accepting a pre-determined number of startup teams, and staging “demo days.”
Paul Bricault, a founder of the two-and-a-half-year-old accelerator Amplify.LA in Venice, Ca., thinks that’s a little, well, silly. In fact, Bricault and Amplify’s cofounder, Richard Wolpert, have basically ripped up that playbook and created a new one that in almost every way operates differently. Whether it works is another question that only time will answer.
We chatted with Bricault, who is also a venture partner with Greycroft Partners, yesterday.
You wear two hats. So does Richard, who’s a venture partner at Accel Partners. How do you divide your time?
Amplify takes the bulk of my time. On an average week, it’s probably 70/30. But there are no normal weeks. [Laughs.]
You’ve raised two small funds so far, a $4.5 million fund and an $8.1 million fund closed last November. Will you be in the market again soon?
We’re not even a third of the way through fund two yet. My guess is that we’ll start fundraising early next year.
How many companies have you funded?
We’ve done 36 altogether and 31 have gone on to raise capital. Twenty-seven have raised seed rounds; four have raised Series A rounds, the smallest of which was $6 million. It’s a higher percentage than your average [accelerator] by a significant margin.
You take pride in doing things — a lot of things — differently. Amplify.LA doesn’t do classes; you have a rolling start program instead. You don’t have set economics. You invest in follow-on rounds. Why take such a different approach, given the success of Y Combinator?
Yes, we’re an accelerator in name but we do things differently. We have a rolling start program because we interviewed entrepreneurs from a dozen accelerator programs and realized that classes benefit the accelerators but not entrepreneurs, who may have a different time frame than the accelerators. I don’t believe a class-based structure engenders cooperation, either; the founders feel like they’re in a Darwinian funnel leading up to their demo day. You see more collaboration between the SaaS company that has just raised a seed round and is working beside a younger company that needs help on its pricing model. Classes also create an artificial structure at most accelerators that have maybe 10 or 12 slots. We’ll go for a couple of months without admitting anyone, then admit four startups in a month.
As for the economics?
Not all companies are created equally. Some have traction and patents when they reach out; some have a brilliant idea and a PowerPoint. So it doesn’t make sense from an entrepreneur or investor standpoint to [present standard terms]. I will say that in general, we take between 5 and 10 percent and put in anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000, which is more than you typically see at accelerators.
And we do follow-on financing, but not in every company. We’re so small that it’s not a huge negative signal [if we don’t participate in a company’s next round]. It’s not always because we like a company better but because of the economics of how we set up each deal. If we take four percent in one company and it’s raising a seed round, there’s a higher chance of our wanting to put more money in, versus the company where we already own more.
Why have you dispensed with demo days?
For similar reasons. As an investor, I’ve always disliked them; they force you to listen to pitches that aren’t necessarily in your areas of interest and pushes entrepreneurs into a truncated pitch structure, which causes all of the pitches to sound the same. The whole thing is very impersonal. We do a showcase here instead, where investors who attend can preselect the companies they want to meet with and, rather than sit through a pitch, meet one on one with those teams to get a better sense of them, without 100 investors listening over their shoulder.
Seed funding doesn’t seem to be an issue in L.A. as was once the case.
There are a lot of seed funds here now: Crosscut Ventures, Double M Capital, Lowercase Capital, TenOneTen Ventures, Karlin Ventures, Wavemaker Partners, Baroda Ventures, A-Grade [Investments], QueensBridge [Venture Partners], TYLT Lab. There are probably 20 seed funds now, which is small by Silicon Valley measures but huge for L.A.
What about early-stage VC?
If there’s anything I worry about, it would be the lack of Series A and B and C capital in LA. There are two or three funds — Anthem [Venture Partners], Greycroft and Upfront [Ventures] — and other than that, there aren’t a lot of firms in a position to lead Series A rounds, so we have to attract external capital. Amplify.LA’s Series A rounds have been led by Azure [Capital in San Francisco], Bessemer [Venture Partners, with offices in New York, Silicon Valley and Boston in the U.S.] and [Boston-based] Polaris Partners. But getting people to come down to L.A. or across the country is critical to the growth of the ecosystem right now.
Akeneo, a 1.5-year-old, Rhone-Alpes, France-based open source Product Information Management (PIM) system designed for retailers, has raised $2.3 million in funding from Alven Capital. The company had previously raised a small amount of seed funding (roughly $132,000) from Kima Ventures, shows Crunchbase.
BetterWorks, a year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based cloud-based platform designed to help employees set and reach business goals, has raised $15.5 million led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, with participation from Formation 8.
Bionym, a three-year-old, Toronto-based company that makes an authentication wristband that uses your heartbeat to communicate with technology, has raised $14 million in Series A funding led by Ignition Partners and earlier investor Relay Ventures. Other investors in the round include Export Development Canada, MasterCard and Salesforce Ventures. The company, which had previously raised $1.4 million in seed funding, had talked about its wearable with StrictlyVC back in May.
Content Analytics, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based e-commerce analytics platform that recommends optimization strategies to major retailers and brands, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by Almaz Capital, with dunnhumby Ventures participating. The company had previously raised $1.5 million from founders, angels and seed funds including Visionnaire Ventures, Zetta Venture Partners, Western Technology Investment and others.
Finally Light Bulb, a three-year-old, Woburn, Ma.-based lighting startup, has raised about $15 million in Series B funding from undisclosed angel investors, bringing the company’s total funding to $23 million. Boston Business Journal has more here.
Inspirato, a three-year-old, Denver, Co.-based private club that provides its members exclusive access to luxury vacation homes and experiences, has raised $20 million in growth financing from new investor W Capital Partners, along with earlier investors Institutional Venture Partners and Millennium Technology Value Partners. The company has now raised about $70 million in equity altogether.
Invoice2go, a 12-year-old, Sydney, Australia-based mobile accounting startup, has raised $35 million in its first institutional round of funding fromAccel Partners and Ribbit Capital, a portion of which was used to provide liquidity to early employees. As part of the funding Greg Waldorf — previously a CEO-in-residence at Accel Partners and the CEO of eHarmony for the five years before — has joined the company as CEO. He’ll be working from Palo Alto, Ca., where Invoice2go is opening an office. TechCrunch has more here.
Ivantis, a seven-year-old, Irvine, Ca.-based company that’s developing new therapies for primary open angle glaucoma, has raised $25 million for its Series B financing, bringing the round total to $71 million. The latest close includes Foresite Capital. Earlier investors New Enterprise Associates, Delphi Ventures, Ascension Ventures, Vertex Ventures, GBS Ventures, EDBI, and MemorialCare Innovation Fund also participated. The company has now raised $88.3 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.
Minerva Surgical, a six-year-old, Cupertino, Ca.-based medical device company whose ablation tool is used to treat heavy menstrual cycles and is eventually expected to treat women who don’t want more children, has raised $25.5 million in new funding, shows an SEC filing. The company has now raised $45 million to date, including from Versant Ventures, shows Crunchbase.
Qualtrics, a 12-year-old, Provo, Ut., and Dublin, Ireland-based software-as-a-service company that says its platform makes it fast and easy for companies to capture customer, employee, and market insights in one place, has raised $150 million in Series B funding by Insight Venture Partners. Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners, which had provided the company with $70 million in Series A funding in 2012, also participated in the round.
Relayr, a 2.5-year-old, Berlin-based company that makes an Internet of Things hardware developers kit that’s called the Wonder Bar and looks like a chocolate bar out of “Willie Wonka,” has raised $2.3 million in seed funding from undisclosed investors. The company had previously raised $320,000 in seed funding, as well as raised $111,000 through a crowdfunding campaign. TechCrunch has more here.
Robinhood, a two-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based retail brokerage platform that invites users to trade at no cost, has raised $13 million in Series A funding led by Index Ventures. Other participants in the round include Ribbit Capital; StockTwits cofounder Howard Lindzon; Box cofounder Aaron Levie; Path cofounder Dave Morin; entertainer Jared Leto; singer Snoop Dogg; and Nasir Jones of QueensBridge Venture Partners. The company has now raised $16 million altogether, including from seed investors Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures.
Sense.ly, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based avatar-based chronic care platform that provides personalized patient monitoring and follow-up care, has raised $1.25 million in seed funding. Sense.ly was incubated within Orange SA, the France-based telecom and technology company, and launched independently in 2013. It had previously raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Alchemist Accelerator, shows Crunchbase.
SiteOne Therapeutics, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s developing therapies to treat acute and chronic pain, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Bay Capital, Sears Capital Management, and BioBrit. The company has also just received a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
SwipeToSpin, a three-year-old, New York-based company whose software makes it easier to create and publish photorealistic content with 360-degree images of products, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners. In February, the company had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Cross Continent Capital and StartFast Venture Accelerator.
Tongbanjie, a two-year-old, Hangzhou, China-based mobile financial app, has raised nearly $50 million in Series B funding led by Legend Capital, reports China Money Network. Earlier investors China Growth Capital and IDG Capital Partners also participated in the latest round. Tonbanjie means “the street of copper coins” in Chinese.
Udacity, a three-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based e-learning startup that works with corporations like Google and Facebook to teach college grads online courses that will help them succeed at those companies, has raised $25 million in Series C funding. The round was led Drive Capital, the Columbus, Oh.-based, Midwest-focused firm founded by former Sequoia Capital investors Mark Kvamme and Chris Olsen (who evidently invest outside the Midwest sometimes, too). Other participants in the round include Bertelsmann Se & Co. KGaG in Germany, Recruit Co. in Japan and Valor Capital in Brazil. Cox Enterprises also participated alongside earlier investors Andreessen Horowitz and CRV and individuals Peter Levine and George Zachary. The company has now raised $63 million altogether. Venture Capital Dispatch has more here.
Zeef, a 1.5-year-old, Amsterdam-based content curation platform, has raised $1.55 million in Series A funding from undisclosed investors. The company had previously raised $830,000 in seed funding.
Crestlight, a Palo Alto, Ca.-based firm that invests in pre-series A startups, has begun marketing a Connected Industry Fund to explicitly target areas like supply chain management, inventory replenishment, transportation, security, big data, advanced analytics and machine learning. More here.
IvyCap Ventures, a Mumbai, India-based venture firm that targets early- to growth-stage startups, has has closed is debut fund with roughly $40 million reports the Economic Times. Vikram Gupta, founder and managing partner of IvyCap, said its strategy is to back companies founded or referred to by alumni of top colleges. “If you just look at the data of the [graduates of the Indian Institutes of Technology] 20 percent of them have been entrepreneurs once in their lifetime, and 500 IPOs have already happened,” said Gupta. IvyCap has already closed six investments, says the report, including the online women’s retailer E-Shakti.
Bubble schmubble. Tiger Global Management, the nine-year-old, New York-based investment firm, has begun raising a $1.5 billion fund, just five months after raising another $1.5 billion vehicle, according to Fortune’s Dan Primack. The company raised the same amount for its eighth fund, closed in April, and its seventh fund, closed in 2012.
Trifecta Capital Partners — the new Mumbai, India-based venture debt firm of Rahul Khanna, a longtime managing director at venture capital firm Canaan Partners — is looking to close on roughly $50 million for its debut fund. Khanna has teamed with Nilesh Kothari, a former M&A head at Accenture in India for the effort. LiveMint has more here.
Zalando, the six-year-old, Berlin-based online fashion retailer, is considering shortening the subscription period for its IPO because of strong demand, sources tell Reuters. The company’s shares are already trading in the gray market well above the 18 euros to 22.50 euros price range set last week, according to the report.
Speaking of the Samwer brothers (who launched Zalando): Rocket Internet AG set the price range for shares in its initial public offering, valuing the German technology incubator at up to $8 billion. The company, which focuses on copying successful e-commerce businesses, said it could raise as much as 1.48 billion euros by selling 24 percent of its shares.
Nexage, an eight-year-old, Boston-based mobile ad platform, has been acquired by the publicly traded mobile ad company Millennial Media$107.5 million in cash and (mostly) stock. Nexage had raised $19.5 million from investors, including GrandBanks Capital, Relay Ventures, Hearst Ventures, and SingTel Innov8.
Playhaven, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based mobile ad network, has acquired been by the L.A.-based incubator Science Inc. VentureWire reports that the deal was done for more than $20 million in cash. Science CEO Mike Jones tells TechCrunch that while he expects PlayHaven to “show great returns and great growth” on its own, he’d also like to see it help other Science companies monetize their mobile apps.
Prss, a year-old, Netherlands-based platform that makes it easy to create iPad-compatible magazines using tools that don’t require any knowledge of code, has been acquired by Apple. TechCrunch has more here.
Former Apple Retail SVP Ron Johnson, who went on to become the CEO of J.C. Penney (getting ousted after 17 months following grim results), is launching a high-end, on-demand delivery service for gadgets, according to The Information. According to the report, Johnson has already recruitedJerry McDougal, Apple’s vice president of retail, who worked under Johnson, to help.
Investor Peter Thiel talks with Business Insider about a range of things, including Apple Pay, which he does not view as a game-changer: “For a new payment product, you always have to ask, how much better is it than the current solution? . . . When you look at stores or physical worlds, places, a lot of these places are already set up to take cash or credit card. Apple Pay may be an incremental improvement, maybe a little bit better. But when you have something that’s pretty good and you go to something that’s perfect, sometimes it’s very hard to drive adoption because the delta is not that big.”
Providence Health & Services, a not-for-profit Catholic health-care ministry that plans to invest $150 million in early- to mid-stage patient care companies, is looking to hire a senior venture capital associate. The job is in Renton, Wa.
Oh, Clinkle. Clinkle, clinkle, clinkle.
Why innovators hate MBAs.
How not to pitch a billionaire (in this case, Chris Sacca).
Eight iOS 8 tricks you should know about.
Can you guess which neighborhood has the most expensive median home value in San Francisco? (If you’re from San Francisco, you probably can.) Paragon Real Estate breaks it down here.
Still can’t decide which new iPhone to buy? Check out this guide for the regular guy. It didn’t help us, but we’re Libran. It could take us until sometime next year to figure it out.