• StrictlyVC: November 21, 2014

    Hi, happy Friday, everyone. StrictlyVC ran out of time for a column this morning, but we hope you have a terrific weekend and we’ll see you next week! (Psst, web visitors, this version of today’s email is easier to read than what you see below.)


    Top News in the A.M.

    The streaming TV service Aereo, ruled against back in June by the U.S. Supreme Court — it said Aereo’s service violated copyright laws by capturing broadcast signals and routing them to subscribers for a fee — is calling it quits. Here’s it’s we-really-finally-completely-give-up announcement.

    Last night, President Obama outlined plans to use executive authority to help millions of undocumented people, as well as to help foreign students who graduate from U.S. schools. But on the latter front, he didn’t go nearly far enough, tech insiders tell Reuters. While he announced changes that would enable spouses of certain H-1B visa holders obtain work permits, for example, he said nothing that would address the backlog of H-1B holders awaiting green cards. “This holiday season, the undocumented advocacy community got the equivalent of a new car, and the business community got a wine and cheese basket,” one lobbyist griped to Reuters.


    New Fundings

    Assembly, a nearly three-year-old, San Francisco-based community platform that pairs developers, designers and others who transparently create software together, has raised $2.9 million in funding led by Union Square Ventures. Other participants in the round include Thrive CapitalBox Group, and angel investors. The company, a Y Combinator alum, had previously raised a seed round whose amount it never disclosed.

    BioNano Genomics, an 11-year-old, San Diego-based company whose nanoscale imaging and analytic platforms are used to identify structural variations among genomes, has raised $53 million in Series C funding co-led by Legend Capital and Novartis Venture Fund. Earlier backers Domain Associates, Battelle Ventures and Gund Investment Corp. also participated in the round. The company has now raised $102 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

    Dual Aperture International, a months-old, South Korea-based joint venture that’s developing a low-cost smart sensor technology that can be integrated into different types of consumer, automotive, and industrial products, has raised $5.7 million in Series A funding led by Value Invest Korea, a strategic investment firm based in Seoul. A company called eWBM Co. also participated.

    FastPay Partners, a five-year-old, Beverly Hills, Ca.-based company whose tech platform assesses the creditworthiness of digital businesses and provide loans in real-time, has raised $15 million from Oak HC/FT, a fund launched by members of Oak Investment Partners. The company has now raised at least $50 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

    FiscalNote, a 1.5-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based company that uses artificial intelligence to predict the outcome of legislation, has raised $7 million in new funding led by Visionnaire Ventures, with AME Cloud Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Winklevoss Capital, Enspire Capital, Green Visor Capital, Middleland Capital and individual investors participating. The company has raised $8.2 million to date.

    Flashback Technologies, a five-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based company that has developed a machine learning framework for the real-time analysis of physiological data, has raised $2 million in Series A funding led by PAC Partners.

    Flywheel Software, a five-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based company whose mobile app allows users to hail, track and pay for licensed cabs from their smartphones, has raised $12 million in funding from earlier backers TCW/Craton, Rockport Capital and Shasta Ventures. The company has now raised roughly $35 million altogether. TechCrunch has much more here.

    Honk, an 11-month-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based startup that has partnered with more than 20,000 contractors for its on-demand roadside assistance mobile app, has raised $1.8 million in seed funding from a long list of institutional and individual investors, including Double M CapitalVenture51, Karlin Ventures, AngelList cofounder Naval Ravikant and Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh. L.A. Biz has more here.

    InfoBionic, a three-year-old, Lowell, Ma.-based company that makes heart-monitoring devices and software, has added $6.5 million to its Series B round, closing it at $17 million. Excel Venture Management and Zaffre Investments are the newest investors in the round; they join earlier backers Safeguard Scientifics, Mass Medical Angels, Broadview Ventures, The Indus Entrepreneurs, Beta Fund, Launchpad Venture Group, Cherrystone, TCA, HTC, Boynton, and Keiretsu. The company has now raised $19.2 million to date.

    Metao, an eight-month-old, Beijing-based e-commerce firm that focuses on connecting Chinese consumers with overseas branded products, has raised $30 million in Series B funding by Vertex Venture Holdingsaccording to Chinese Money Network. Morningside VenturesGreenwoods Investment and earlier backer Matrix Partners also participated in the round. The company has now raised $35 million altogether.

    Pluto TV, a 1.5-year-old, L.A.-based company whose service enables users to watch online video across devices, including TVs, computers, smartphones and tablets, has raised $13 million in Series A funding led by U.S. Venture Partners. Other participants in the round include Chicago Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Luminari Capital Sky, and United Talent Agency.

    Sunnova Energy, a 2.5-year-old, Houston, Tx.-based residential solar service company, has raised $250 million in what it’s calling the largest-ever round of funding raised by a private residential solar service company in the U.S. Franklin Square Capital Partners led the financing round, which also included Triangle Peak Partners. The company has raised nearly half a billion dollars this year, including a $110 million round in August and a $145 million round that closed in June.

    Youbetme, a 20-month-old, San Francisco-based free social betting application that lets users bet on anything with their friends, has raised $2.7 million in Series A funding, including from SierraMaya360, Dakota Venture Group, and Abingdon Capital. The company has now raised roughly $5.1 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.


    New Funds

    Accel Partners India is raising a $250 million fourth fund to invest in e-commerce and other tech startups in the country, reports Live Mint. The firm’s last India-focused fund was a $155 million vehicle closed in 2011. Accel had acquired the operations of Erasmic Venture Fund in 2008 and Erasmic executives Subrata Mitra, Prashanth Prakash and Mahendran Balachandran remain partners at Accel, which added a fourth partner, Shekhar Kirani, in 2011. As Live Mint notes, Accel has made some very smart bets in India, including the online marketplace Flipkart, now valued at $7 billion, and fellow e-commerce operator Myntra, which Flipkart acquired for a reported $300 million in May.

    Surge Ventures, a nearly four-year-old, Houston-based accelerator and seed investor for startups in the energy technology sector, is hoping to raise a $30 million fund to invest in its best companies, it tells VentureWire.



    The formerly high-flying online retailer Fab is in talks to sell to PCH International for $15 million in a half cash and half stock deal, reports TechCrunch. Though the company has suffered a string of massive layoffs as it has tried shoring up its balance sheet, the reported purchase price still surprises. Altogether, the company — just three-and-a-half years old — had raised roughly $340 million from investors, including First Round Capital, Menlo Ventures, SoftTech VC, Baroda Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Mayfield Fund, Atomico and many (many) others.

    Lightbridge Communications, a 30-year-old, McLean, Va.-based network services company, is being acquired by Tech Mahindra, a 28-year-old, Pune, India-based network services giant, for $240 million. The Hindu has more here.

    Smarterer, a four-year-old, Boston-based startup that offers skills test software for companies, has been acquired by the Utah-based online tech company Pluralsight for $75 million. The acquisition is Pluralsight’s fifth in the past 15 months; it follows a $135 million Series B funding round led by Insight Venture Partners that closed in August. Smarterer had meanwhile raised about $4.6 million from investors, including Google Ventures, Rethink Education, True Ventures, and Boston Seed Capital.



    Renowned business reporter Dan Lyons, who two years ago accepted a marketing position with the software company Hubspot, has returned to journalism and sounds prepared to flame all of Silicon Valley as the new editor of Valleywag. More here.

    Bob Marley would be proud. Hopefully. His wife, son, and daughter are breathing life into a line of products called Marley Natural that will sell everything from hemp-infused sunscreen to cannibas strains inspired by the kind that the famed singer enjoyed before his death in 1981. How much the family will make from the deal isn’t being disclosed. Marley Natural is a wholly owned subsidiary of Privateer Holdings, a three-year-old Seattle firm that’s currently raising a $60 million fund to “create brands that elevate the conversation about cannabis.”

    Alexey Pajitnov, who created the legendary video game Tetris, drives a Tesla whose license plate reads, simply, TETRIS. (Of course.) Vice profiles him in a fun piece here.



    VCs are hungry for specialty food companies, pouring $83.4 million into the industry during the third quarter, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. That’s the biggest quarter the organization has seen in 20-plus years, it says.

    Venture Capital Dispatch pores over some data to determine Techstar graduates’ survival rates. Its findings: Of the startups that participated in the accelerator program from 2007 through 2010 (its first four years of operation), about 37 percent are still active, 33 percent have failed and 30 percent were acquired. More about those numbers here.


    Job Listings

    Yelp tells us it’s looking for a business development associate. The job is in San Francisco.


    Essential Reads

    Now you can share tweets through direct messages on Twitter.

    Amazon is preparing to launch its own travel service.

    A Google settlement underscores that the smartphone patent wars are dying down.



    The psychology of passwords.

    An astronaut shares what life in space is really like.

    The lessons of a Rosetta scientist’s shirt.


    Retail Therapy

    This holiday season, show Twitter how much you love it with a diamond hashtag ring.

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