• Jeremy Liew on Snapchat, Anonymous Apps, and the Fallibility of Intuition

    17666532621_d1d0dc8be6_zLast week, we published several interviews from our most recent StrictlyVC event in San Francisco. Today we’re running the last of those interviews, with venture capitalist Jeremy Liew.

    Liew joined Lightspeed Venture Partners in 2006 from AOL, where he’d worked in corporate development, and as many readers will know, his star has risen quickly in the last nine years, thanks to investments like Snapchat, Bonobos, and The Honest Company. (Snapchat is reportedly valued at upwards of $20 billion and Liew wrote its first check, for $500,000. Meanwhile, both Bonobos and The Honest Company are expected to go public in the not-too-distant future.)

    Liew — who primarily focuses on social media, commerce, gaming and financial services — doesn’t seem to be taking anything for granted. Parts of our chat, edited for length, follow.

    What’s your day like? Are there certain things you pore over every morning like App Annie?

    Probably three-ish years ago, taking more of a quantitative approach and looking at data sources was a more of an advantage; you could spot things before other people did. I still think that it’s good to see what everybody’s seeing, and we want to do that, but oftentimes, there’s an awful lot of interesting stuff that’s not as well-known, and you have to go looking for that. Bitcoin is a good example. Now there’s a lot of coverage about it, but two or three years ago, that wasn’t the case, and you could meet every interesting Bitcoin company in the world, which then was 15 or 20 companies.

    So you develop a thematic approach, then dig in?

    First, just being able to observe the present without judgment [is important]. It’s easy to rush to judgment based on your intuition, but you have to recognize that your intuition can be pretty fallible before you write something off.

    You also have to have a point of view that’s differentiated. Some people did around [virtual reality]; we didn’t. we missed that whole thing. But when you pick a sector early, you really can be as well-versed in that sector as anybody else.

    You think you’ve already missed the virtual-reality wave? 

    There are some sectors, where you really have to spend time to develop a point of view. I haven’t [when it comes to VR] not because I don’t think it’s interesting but because I’ve been focused on other stuff. And I think VC is becoming more of a specialist business. If you don’t know enough about a category, entrepreneurs probably figure that out pretty quickly.

    You’ve said that you think L.A. is more in touch with what the rest of the country wants than Silicon Valley. How much time do you spend there?

    I have one board seat in the Bay Area, five in L.A and five in New York. It’s not that I don’t want to invest in the Bay Area, but [I no longer believe there’s a] path that starts [here] with the digerati and that spreads to everyone else as they slowly grow to understand what we’ve always known. Instead, it’s actually young women who are the carriers of cultural viruses; it’s young women who are early adopters who will evangelize technologies and help spread them. And you ask yourself: who understands what young women in middle America will be doing, people in Silicon Valley or people in L.A. and New York?

    One of your biggest L.A.-based bets is on Snapchat. For those who don’t know, how did that deal come together?

    It was in 2012. It’s a lucky thing. One of my partners has a daughter who, at the time, was in high school. He’s an engaged dad and he noticed she was using this new app all the time, and [asked about it]. She said everybody in school has three apps: Instagram, Angry Birds, and Snapchat. (Remember, it was 2012, so people were still playing Angry Birds.)

    He mentioned it to me since I focus on consumer stuff, so I downloaded the app, and I really didn’t understand what the big deal was [but figured if a] subset of people are using something intensively, it’s worth understanding why. So I saw [an email address] on Snapchat’s site and I emailed it and never heard back. I [turned to] LinkedIn and no one was listed as an employee at Snapchat. [Eventually] I turned to a WhoIs [domain] lookup [and it listed] Evan Spiegel, who was a sophomore at Stanford, so I emailed him through LinkedIn and never heard back. Then I started randomly emailing [different possible gmail addresses for him] and didn’t hear back. I was about to give up but tried one last thing. Since Evan was a Stanford student and I was a Stanford grad from business school, we were in the same Facebook [group], so I direct messaged him. And I heard back from him one second later, and he said, “Oh, I’d love to talk with you.” [Laughs.]

    He wandered over the next day, cracked open his Mixpanel [mobile analytics] account and I was shocked by the engagement, retention and growth . . . It was growing so fast that he said, “We can’t pay our server bills,” and we said, “We can help you with that!”

    Reports say Snapchat is now worth $10 billion to $20 billion. What do you think it’s worth right now?

    I agree that’s what reports say. [Laughs.]

    Have you taken some of your money off the table?

    We haven’t. Venture is a game of extremes. You aren’t successful because you have a high hit rate; you’re successful because of your best deals. So you have to ride out your winners. If Evan and the team think there’s opportunity here, then we do, too.

    You’ve also backed the anonymous app Whisper, whose most direct competitor, Secret, just went out of business, while another, Yik Yak, seems to chugging along. Has your view on anonymous apps evolved in any way?

    With Whisper or Yik Yak, you actually get very different things. Yik Yak is very geographically focused. Whisper is much more about topic. You can connect with and emphasize with others about being gay in high school, or around loving your kids but sometimes just needing to be by yourself a little bit. Whatever it is, you’re not sure who you talk with about some of that stuff, and this gives you a forum to do that.

    That’s the upside of anonymity. The downside is bullying or just mean-spiritedness. One of the few tools you have with these social sites is the culture within the community. If you go to an app where everybody else is ragging on other people, then it’s you think it’s okay to do that. If you go to an app where everyone is empathetic and supportive, then you say, okay, that’s kind of what we do here. Think of Pinterest, which essentially started as a photo sharing site. Users could have posted [lewd] pictures but they didn’t because they could see no one else did. You’d have to be a real jackass to think [behaving badly] is a cool thing to do when other people aren’t doing that, and most people aren’t real jackasses.

    What did you make of Secret’s end? People seemed upset that the founders had taken $6 million off the table in the Series B, but no one was holding a gun to investors’ heads when they struck that deal with them.

    I think in every transaction, a willing buyer meets a willing seller, and they agree on terms. The outcome there was probably what nobody was planning for but that happens in entrepreneurship and startups.

    When is the right time for founder liquidity?

    There’s no universal answer. Sometimes, investors want to own more than they’re able to. That’s probably not a great reason, but that’s actually one key reason, and it’s what I suspect happened in Secret’s case. Other times, it’s about alignment. Maybe you have founders who were in college two years ago and there’s an opportunity for the company to sell for $100 million. It must be pretty tempting to have a life-changing moment, and having the founders aligned with investors in wanting to go for a bigger opportunity is a good reason for founders to take money off the table. In any event, it’s a rare thing. It shouldn’t be a standard thing.

  • One of Craigslist’s Biggest Threats to Date: VarageSale

    VarageSaleIt’s accepted wisdom that nothing and no one can destroy Craiglist, the San Francisco-based local classifieds marketplace whose success has continued unhampered for roughly 20 years, despite many newer entrants with far snazzier technologies.

    VarageSale might just be different. At least, the 50-person, Toronto-based outfit is gaining enough traction that last month, Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners sank $34 million into its operations.

    What makes the startup, which claims to have millions of users, so promising? A few things, according to cofounder Carl Mercier, who sold an antispam company to security-software maker Websense in 2009 and founded VarageSale with his wife, Tami Zuckerman, in 2012. For starters, users have to be accepted onto the platform by volunteer moderators in the many communities in which VarageSale now operates. (The company has quietly spread to cities in 42 states and in every Canadian province.)

    As key, seemingly, the conversations that happen behind the scenes between Craigslist users — the harried “I’ll take it!” emails, along with the privately asked questions and price haggling — are instead displayed in Twitter-like feeds at VarageSale. It helps build interest in users’ items, suggests Mercier; it also builds community.

    We talked with Mercier this week. Our conversation has been edited for length.

    You say VarageSale has millions of users. Is that single-digit millions? And how many items are selling on the platform each month or year?

    We have millions of users who view billions of items of month. For competitive reasons, we’d rather not be more specific. But 50 percent of our mobile users open the app every day, which is very unusual for a commerce app.

    What are they returning to check out?

    Typically people are coming to the site for information about a specific category they’re following — like clothes for a two-year-old boy, or smartphones. They also come back all the time because they want to make sure they don’t miss that treasure, or because they posted an item and there are 10 people who’ve expressed an interest in it.

    Do you do anything to slow the pace of transactions to foster those conversations? It’s interesting that people don’t just sell to the first interested party.

    It’s more akin to people putting their towel on a beach chair at 6 a.m to reserve it. Maybe the first person to express an interest [lands the item], but once they ask a question, then we see other people become interested — sometimes tens of them.

    You don’t enable people to transact through the site, though. Like Craigslist, that happens offline. Might that change?

    We really want to focus on building up our local communities right now — growing our user base and coverage. That’s where we feel like we’ll have the biggest impact.

    I’d read about VarageSale meet-ups. How do most people come together?

    It really depends on the people and the communities. Sometimes people meet in a parking lot or at their house; sometimes, our moderators organize events every one or two weeks.

    Given your emphasis on community, VarageSale sounds like a hybrid of a number of things, including Craigslist and NextDoor. Maybe even Airbnb? Are people selling home items alone, or are you starting to see other things, like neighbors alerting others to their available in-law unit?

    Hah, no. Airbnb is really good at that. Some people are renting properties [on the platform], but we mostly focus on physical goods.

    You’ve just raised a lot of money. Is this an employee-intensive business? How will you use the capital?

    Building strong communities isn’t something that we can just press a button and it happens. It’s definitely hard work that involves a lot of human intervention. We probably won’t be hiring 1,000 people, but we think we’ll add 30 to 40 employees in the next year. We already have a small presence in Europe, Australia, and Japan that we’re growing.

    Will your eventual business model center on transaction fees? Local advertising?

    Revenue isn’t a priority for us. We want to focus on improving user experience and we have great partners [in our venture investors]. With the money we now have in the bank, we have runway for a few years.

  • Nakul Mandan on His New Role at Lightspeed, and What He Was Recruited to Do

    Nakul MandanBy Semil Shah

    Nakul Mandan has spent most of the last five years as a VP at Battery Ventures. Earlier this summer, though, he quietly joined Lightspeed Venture Partners, where he’s focusing on early- and growth-stage software-as-a-service investments as a “principal partner.” We asked him about some of the considerations involved in switching from one powerful venture firm to another, and what he was recruited to do.

    You recently moved from Battery Ventures to Lightspeed. What’s it like to switch firms on Sand Hill?

    In a way, it’s more of the same in terms of the daily routine – figure out thesis areas you like, invest in teams attacking those areas, and then support them in every way possible. But each firm has its own DNA in terms of how they think of risk-reward, the nature of risks they’re comfortable taking, and how the investment team works together pre- and post-investment. Understanding that DNA and finding alignment is key.

    The other aspect of the switch is to ensure a smooth transition for the entrepreneurs you’re working with, within the portfolio and outside. This is extremely important. You want to make sure that there is somebody to take over an ongoing relationship — board role, or otherwise — and represent the firm in the same way as you would have.

    You were recruited to Lightspeed to help build the firm’s SaaS practice. Is SaaS still hot after the public SaaS companies were hurt in public markets in March? What has the industry learned from that slight correction?

    I’m not sure I’d make a good investor if I invested in early-stage startups based on the current public market reaction to a particular category. Just a year or so ago, consumer was supposed to be out of vogue because the long-awaited Facebook IPO didn’t do well initially. But now Facebook, Twitter, Uber, and Airbnb are all kicking ass and so consumer is back.

    I’m sure SaaS, or for that matter any other category, will see similar ups and downs. But if the business is fundamentally creating value for its customers, and customers are willing to pay a price for that value that eventually leads to strong profitability, then the business can see through those ups and downs in valuations.

    What do you see as the key differences between web-based versus mobile-only SaaS opportunities today?

    Similar to the consumer world, in mobile, less is more. For mobile apps to be useable, they need to be extremely easy to navigate and focused on a couple of core features that they’re great for. Sometimes that requires trimming the functionality down. For instance, collaboration software on mobile will look closer to Whatsapp than Facebook. For companies trying to redefine existing workflows like CRM or sales productivity or collaboration on mobile, that’s something to keep in mind.

    The challenge is how do you deliver enough value while keeping it simple to use on mobile. To that extent, I think there’s more opportunity for mobile-first rather than mobile-only SaaS startups. A lot of enterprise use cases can benefit from the ease of use of a mobile app focused on one or two core features but also need a more comprehensive workflow that is better delivered via a web app to support the end-to-end needs of the business user.

    We always hear about seed deals for consumer startups. How do you see the seed ecosystem working for enterprise-focused founders?

    I think it’s a pretty robust ecosystem. There are lots of good angels and seed funds that are focused on enterprise startups. There’s also a lot of good talent coming out of all the recently acquired enterprise companies, like Eloqua, Yammer, ExactTarget, Successfactors, etc.

    My sense is that enterprise will never be the area that gets written about the most in tech blogs, but it continues to be the area where most of the early-stage investment dollars go, and where a lot of innovation is happening.

    What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in your five years on Sand Hill Road? And, why is this important for both investors and founders to understand?

    The biggest change for me is how much more mature startups are, and are expected to be, by the time they pitch their Series A. With the cost of building a product going down, and a greater influx of seed-stage capital, I’m regularly seeing startups raise seed rounds that give them two-plus years of runway. This gives them more time to tweak their initial product, and get more feedback from customers before they hit the road for a Series A. Founders need to keep that in mind as they think about the timing of their Series A. And investors need to accordingly adjust their expectations on valuations and round size, given that startups are coming to them with more proven out.

    Sign up for our morning missive, StrictlyVC, featuring all the venture-related news you need to start you day.

  • That’s It?

    Evan SpiegelAlmost a week ago, some odious years-old emails written by Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel were leaked to the media, and it’s a wonder how quickly their content seems to be have been swept under the rug.

    It’s understandable, to a point. Spiegel’s emails were written when he was a college student trying to impress his fraternity brothers, not the CEO of Snapchat. Emails are also private communications that, very arguably, should remain private.

    Besides, it isn’t like Spiegel holds public office. He never signed up to be a role model. He certainly shouldn’t be held accountable for a culture in which objectifying women not only remains socially acceptable but, for some, seems to border on a competitive sport.

    Still, Spiegel’s lone public apology, in which he said he was “mortified and embarrassed,” didn’t go far enough. How about some response from others close to the company, the same people who blog and tweet and talk so openly with reporters about how Silicon Valley is changing the world?

    On Friday, Stanford Provost John Etchemendy emailed the university’s student body to say the school is “positively ashamed” that the emails were sent by a Stanford student.

    If Snapchat’s influential investors are also ashamed of the noxious attitudes toward women that were conveyed in those emails, they should also say something. It’s easy enough to condemn their content without hanging Spiegel out to dry. And frankly, not doing anything seems like an implicit endorsement, as if what Spiegel wrote isn’t that bad. (It is.)

    “We can choose to turn a blind eye to such statements and chalk them up to youthful indiscretion,” wrote Etchemendy to Stanford’s undergraduates. “Or we can be more courageous, and affirmatively reject such behavior whenever and wherever we see it, even — no especially — if it comes from a friend, a classmate, or a colleague.”

    Nobody’s going to change Silicon Valley’s attitude towards women overnight, but here’s hoping Etchemendy’s message resonates not only with the men and women of Stanford but with Snapchat’s board, as well. A few choice words could help send the message that objectifying women isn’t okay, no matter how “hot” your company might happen to be.

    Sign up for our morning missive, StrictlyVC, featuring all the venture-related news you need to start you day.

  • StrictlyVC: March 21, 2014

    Good morning!

    Top News in the A.M

    Poor Blackberry can’t catch a break. It looks like even the White House is moving on to Samsung phones.


    A Small Entrepreneur Takes On, Gulp, Uber

    Across the U.S., new car-sharing services Lyft and Sidecar are spreading fast, while Uber, which now manages a ride-share service as well as connects passengers with career drivers, seems destined for world domination.

    In short, it doesn’t sound like a great time to launch a new car service. Yet that’s exactly what Yamandou Alexander has done with GoGreenRide, a New York-based startup that Alexander has bootstrapped with $2.5 million of his own capital. (GoGreenRide is currently halfway through raising a new, $5 million outside round of fundraising.)

    Oddly, Alexander may have had the idea of an alternative transportation fleet first. As the French-born entrepreneur tells it, he moved to New York City at 19, bussing tables at famed Upper East Side restaurant Daniel and selling Motorola Startacs to his coworkers, many of them fellow immigrants. He eventually began exporting the handsets to Africa, creating one telecom company and selling a second for enough money in 2012 to bring to life a concept he wanted, but couldn’t afford, to pursue in 2006 – a nicer, greener, more affordable version of a black car service.

    We chatted recently about how that vision is coming together and why GoGreenRide makes sense now, even in a ride-sharing economy.

    Your business differentiates itself in two key ways. For one thing, GoGreenRide owns or leases dozens of Prius cars. You also have 40 full-time employees, rather than contractors. You’re like the anti-Uber, except that Uber is so profitable precisely because it has so little overhead. Why does your strategy make sense?

    With contractors, there’s a lack of control in presentation, quality, and customer service. We want our drivers to wear a uniform; to work on a schedule, rather than when they feel like it; to open doors; and to understand when it isn’t time to talk. We want to provide good, consistent customer service. We’re also concerned with Uber’s model from a liability standpoint.

    As for the cars, based on plans to increase our fleet to 50 cars by summer, the company should reach break-even by December. Next year, the car should see a 13 percent EBITDA…and by 2018, 26 percent EBITDA.

    Where are you turning to fund those plans?

    We’re talking with VCs. Investors on the West Coast are more interested in less capital-intensive businesses, but we’re getting good traction with East Coast people who know and live the experience of trying to find transportation in New York. We’re also going out to AngelList for additional investment, and inviting GoGreenRide members to participate.

    Uber gets a lot of flack for its surge pricing. Is your pricing flexible, too?

    Pricing does fluctuate based on traffic conditions. But you always know how much you’ll pay before you get in a car via our mobile app, which sends you detailed information about your trip, including when the driver will arrive. Our metering is calculated based on the estimated time [it will take to transport a passenger from A to B], which we know based on historical data about traffic patterns.

    As an alternative to black car service, what percent of your business comes from corporate partnerships?

    About 40 percent. We cater to both customers taking long trips, who might otherwise take a black car service to the airport, and short trips, where we’re competing more directly with taxis. Our average fare is $34, which is the same as a yellow cab, but you’re getting a much nicer experience with GoGreenRide.

    Beyond expanding your fleet, what’s on your road map, so to speak?

    The short-term growth opportunity is for us to grow our model in New York, then move into L.A. or San Francisco. We’re also starting a franchising program, including [helping launch] a GoGreenRide in China.

    We glad for Uber’s success and the acceptance it has gained in New York. But we also see a lot of people coming to us from them because of pricing, level of service, reliability, and safety.


    New Fundings

    Chatwala, a year-old, New York-based messaging app, has raised $625,000 in seed funding for its two-way video chat mobile app that lets users engage in staggered conversations VentureBeat has more here.

    Crowdtap, a 4.5-year-old, New York-based startup that helps brands connect with their fans and reward them, has raised $5 million in Series B funding led by earlier investor Foundry Group. Other participants in the round included Tribeca Venture PartnersAlta Communications, and The Mustang Group. The company has now raised $15 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

    Elevate Digital, a three-year-old, Chicago-based interactive digital advertising and software company, has raised $3 million in funding from SFX Entertainment, a live event and festival promoter that plans to incorporate Elevate’s technology it into its events. The money brings Elevate’s Series A fund to a total of $7.2 million. Its other backers include Partners Path Investments and Advantage Capital Partners.

    Faraday, an 18-month-old, Middlebury, Vt.-based cloud software provider aimed at helping housing contractors and handymen find new business, has raised $880,000 in Series A round of financing led by FreshTracks Capital. Renewable energy services provider 3Degrees, seed-stage venture investor LaunchCapital, environmental-opportunities-focused investor ARB, and a number of individual investors also participated.

    Gigwalk, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that asks people to use their smartphones to gather and submit to Gigwalk information about retailers they visit, has raised $10 million in a Series B round led by Nokia Growth Partners. Other participants in the funding includedRandstad Holding and earlier investors August CapitalHarrison Metaland SoftTech VC.

    Invendo Medical, a 6.5-year-old, Garden City, N.J.-based maker of endoscopy products, has raised $28 million in financing led by Xeraya Capital. Other participants in the round included TVM CapitalWellington Partners and 360° Capital.

    Procured Health, a two-year-old, Chicago-based company whose software helps hospitals with their internal workflow, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by FCA Venture Partners. The company had previously raised $1.1 million in seed funding from Zimmerman VenturesBessemer Venture PartnersFidelity Biosciences, and Blueprint Health Accelerator.

    Saffron Technology, a 15-year-old, Cary, N.C.-based company whose data analytics platform claims to unify and learn from structured and unstructured data in real time from a large variety of sources, has raised $7 million in Series B funding from unnamed sources. The company tells the Triangle Business Journal that it plans to use some of that funding to move to Silicon Valley.

    Stir, a months-old, L.A-based creator of so-called “learning” height-adjustable desk, has secured $1.5 million in seed investment led by Vegas TechFund. Numerous angel investors also participated in the funding.

    Testbirds, a 2.5-year-old Munich, Germany-based mobile and web app that lets companies outsource their app testing, has raised $2.9 million in Series A funding led by Seventure Partners. The company had previously raised roughly $1.8 million in seed funding, reports TechCrunch.

    YouNoodle, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based company that builds platforms for entrepreneurship competitions all over the world, has raised $1.1 million in a new financing round, including from VegasTechFund,Lars-Henrik Friis Molin of Sweden, The Amicus Group of Korea, and Kolind A/S.


    New Funds

    Flybridge Capital Partners, the 13-year-old, Boston-based venture capital firm, is raising $125 million for its fourth venture capital fund, according to an SEC filing that was first spied by Fortune. As Fortune’s report notes, the fund is far small than its immediate predecessor, a $280 million pool closed in 2008. It says the difference reflects numerous changes, including that the firm is no longer focused on healthcare deals. (In fact, the firm’s cofounder and primary healthcare investor, Michael Greeley, left Flybridge last fall to join another firm, Foundation Medical Partners. You can read an interview with him about the move here.) The new, more focused Flybridge is also reportedly backing out of Latin America as a focus area, with general partner Jon Karlen becoming an advisor to the firm, while New York-based principal Math Witheiler is promoted to general partner in New York.

    Lightspeed Venture Partners, the 14-year-old, Sand Hill Road venture capital firm, has closed its tenth fund with a total of $1 billion in capital commitments, reports Fortune, which say the firm raised two separate funds: a $650 million early-stage fund, and a $350 million late-stage vehicle. The fund invests in consumer and enterprise deals, along with energy tech. Fortune has more here.

    Qiming Venture, the 10-year-old, Shanghai-based venture capital firm cofounded by Gary Rieschel, has raised about $500 million for its fourth fund, according to China Money Network. The firm, which funds early- to growth-stage companies across China in the media and internet, IT, consumer and retail, healthcare, and clean technology sectors, raised its last, $450 million, fund in the spring of 2011.

    Simon Property Group, a publicly traded, Indianapolis, In.-based commercial real estate giant, has announced a new, dedicated venture fund called Simon Venture Group that will look to invest in “retail innovation,” from seed-stage to high-growth companies, says the firm. The new venture group will be led by J. Skyler Fernandes, who was previously a partner at Centripetal Capital Partners, a multi-stage venture capital fund.

    Technology Crossover Ventures, the 19-year-old growth equity firm, has officially closed on TCV VIII, a $2.23 billion fund. TCV began marketing the fund in the summer of 2012 with a $2.5 billion target.



    Rubicon Project, the nearly seven-year-old, L.A. based ad tech company, priced its IPO yesterday at $17 a share, valuing the company at more than $450 million. The company has raised $51 million in funding from Mayfield FundClearstone Venture PartnersComcast VenturesIDG Ventures, and News Corp. Its biggest shareholders are Clearstone, which owned 21.7 percent going into the offering; News Corporation, which owned 19.3 percent; and Mayfield, which owned 14.2 percent. (All three had plans to sell part of their stake in the IPO.) Rubicon today becomes the first L.A. tech company to go public since Demand Media‘s IPO in 2011.



    Mindbloom, a 5.5-year-old, Seattle-based mobile health firm, has been acquired by Welltok, a five-year-old health optimization company in Denver. No financial terms were disclosed. Mindbloom had raised $3.2 million in seed funding from undisclosed sources; Welltok has raised $48 million, including from New Enterprise AssociatesIBMQualcomm VenturesEmergence Capital PartnersInterWest Partners andMiramar Venture Partners.

    Nervogrid Oy, a 10-year-old, Helsinki, Finland-based company that delivers IT infrastructure as a managed cloud service, has been acquired by the publicly traded Swiss company Also Holding for undisclosed terms.



    Steve Bennett, who was hired as the CEO of computer-security giant Symantec in July 2012, was fired yesterday, the company announced, saying it had appointed board member Michael Brown to lead while the company seeks a replacement. As you might suspect, the Mountain View, Ca.-based company didn’t elaborate on why it was terminating Bennett, though Bloomberg notes the company’s shares have fallen 15 percent in the past year amid declining revenue.

    Mayfield India has named Vishal Dixit as a partner. Dixit was previously a director at Zephyr Peacock, where he was a founding team member of four India-focused funds. 

    Ferenc Huszar has joined Balderton Capital as a data scientist. Huszar, who recently completed his PhD in machine learning from the University of Cambridge, joins the firm from PeerIndex, a startup that aims to evaluate and understand the “social capital” that a person has built online.

    Pat McGovern, who became a billionaire as the founder and majority owner of Boston-based technology publisher International Data Group, died on Tuesday. He was 76. No reason was given for this death. IDG publishes dozens of print publications and hosts hundreds of conferences each year.

    Google CEO Larry Page suggested at the TED conference this week that rather than hand his fortune over to a traditional philanthropic organization, he’d rather give it entrepreneur genius Elon Musk, who has big ideas for changing the world.


    Job Listings

    Oracle is looking for a corporate development associate at its Redwood Shores, Ca., headquarters.


    Essential Reads

    Just after he was named CEO of MicrosoftSatya Nadella got a visit fromYahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Re/code sources say the meeting was friendly “except when the topic got to the long-fraught search advertising and technology partnership between the companies, which Mayer has been agitating to change for some time now. Mayer’s basic message to Nadella has remained the same as it has been for a while now — Yahoo wants out of the deal, and sooner than later.”

    Not all is lost, apparently. Mt. Gox, the Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange that collapsed and filed for bankruptcy last month, said it had found 200,000 Bitcoins that were held in a digital storage file. Dealbook has more here.



    Director David Fincher says Oscar winner Christian Bale is his one and only choice to play Steve Jobs in an upcoming Jobs biopic.

    Darkly funny photos of the San Francisco rental market.

    Santa Monica is the new Silicon Valley, and the Times is on it.

    “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner talks with The Atlantic about going to casinos and pretending to be Tunisian, Russian, or Armenian.


    Retail Therapy

    Neat – a bike whose frame and rims are coated in a specially formulated powder that makes it shine under light (including car headlights).

    StrictlyVC made the mistake of showing this to the kids this morning. Looks like we’re getting a new robot.


    To sign up for StrictlyVC, click here. To advertise, click here.

StrictlyVC on Twitter