October 26, 2020
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Top News
The Trump administration just lost a bid to enforce its prohibitions against the Chinese-owned “super app” WeChat in the U.S. after appealing a judge’s ruling that the ban probably violates the free-speech rights of its users. The administration was looking to enforce a wide range of measures, including barring the app from Apple and Google’s app stores for U.S. downloads, over purported national security concerns. Bloomberg has more here.
Venture capital powerhouse General Catalyst is doing it, too (a SPAC, that is): Health Assurance Acquisition, a blank check company formed by the venture firm and targeting healthcare technology, filed today with the SEC to raise up to $500 million in an IPO. Renaissance Capital has more here.
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Former Facebook and Pinterest Exec Tim Kendall Traces "Extractive Business Models" to VCs
Last month, former Facebook and Pinterest executive Tim Kendall told Congress during a House hearing on the dangers of social media that Facebook made its products so addictive because its ad-driven business model relies on people paying attention to its product longer every day. He said much the same in the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” in which Kendall — along with numerous other prominent early employees of big tech companies — warns of the threat that Facebook and others pose to modern society.
Kendall — who today runs Moment, an app that helps users monitor device habits and reinforces positive screen-time behavior — isn’t done campaigning against his former employer yet. On Friday morning, we talked with him about the FTC inching closer to filing an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook for its market power in social networking; what he thinks of the DOJ’s separate antitrust lawsuit against Google, filed last Tuesday; and how venture capital contributed to the “unnatural” ways the companies have commanded our attention — and advertisers’ dollars along with it.
Our conversation has been excerpted. You can hear the full conversation here.
Like everyone else, you wrestle with addiction to the apps on your phone. At what point did you decide that you wanted to take a more public role in helping to identify the problem and potentially help solve it.
I’ve always been interested in willpower, and the various things that weaken it. I have addiction in various parts of my family and extended family, and I’ve seen up close substance abuse, drug abuse. And as I started to look at this problem, it felt really similar. It’s the same shape and size as being addicted to drugs or having a behavioral addiction to food or shopping. But it didn’t seem like anyone was treating this with the same gravity.
What has been the reaction of your colleagues to you turning the tables on this industry?
It has evolved in the sense that, at the beginning of this, I was kinder to Facebook. 
Massive Fundings
PrimaryBid, a 5.5-year-old, London-based fintech platform that works alongside investment banks to connect retail investors with public companies raising capital, has raised $50 million in Series B funding. Investors include London Stock Exchange Group, Draper Esprit, OMERS Ventures, Fidelity International Strategic Ventures and ABN AMRO Ventures. EU Startups has more here.
Scorpion Therapeutics, a months-old, Boston-based precision oncology company, has raised $108 million in Series A funding from Atlas Venture, Omega Funds, Vida Ventures, Abingworth and Partners HealthCare Innovation. FierceBiotech has more here.
Shouqi Yueche, a five-year-old, China-based car-sharing platform, has raised a Series C funding in the “hundreds of millions” from unnamed investors, say numerous regional outlets. Caixin Global has more here.
Sirnaomics, a 13-year-old, Gaithersburg, Md.-based developer of RNAi therapeutics, has raised $105 million in Series D funding co-led by Walvax Biotech, Sunshine Riverhead Capital, and earlier backer Rotating Boulder Fund, with participation from Longmen Capital, HongTao Capital, and Alpha Win Capital. FierceBiotech has more here.
VSPN (Versus Programming Network), a 4.5-year-old, Shanghai-based e-sports tournament organizer, has raised nearly $100 million in Series B funding led by Tencent, with additional participation from Tiantu Capital, SIG, and Kuaishou. TechCrunch has more here.
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
EdgePresence, a 3.5-year-old, Jacksonville, Fla.-based operator of data centers, has raised $30 million in funding from DataBank. FierceTelecom has more here.
GoodCell, a four-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based company that offers personal biobanking, small-panel genetic testing, and analysis, has $17.9 million in new venture capital. Prairie Fire Capital, Intellectual Digital, and several individual investors contributed to the round. More here.
Grayshift, a 4.5-year-old, Atlanta-based startup that breaks into unlocked phones for the U.S. government, has raised $47 million in Series A funding led by PeakEquity Partners. Forbes has more here.
Ketos, a 5.5-year-old, Milpitas, Ca.-based water intelligence and analytics company, has raised $15 million in funding. Motley Fool Ventures led the round, joined by Citi and Illuminated Funds Group. TechCrunch has more here.

Nava, a year-old, New York-based lead-generation company centered around health benefits, has raised $20 million from Thrive Capital. AlleyWatch has more here.
TechSee, a five-year-old, Herzliya, Israel-based maker of a visual-based customer service platform, has raised $30 million in Series C funding. Investors included OurCrowd, Salesforce Ventures, TELUS Ventures, Scale Venture Partners, and Planven Entrepreneur Ventures.
Smaller Fundings
DataFleets, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based data virtualization platform that's promising a new approach by which databases can be safely accessed and analyzed without the possibility of privacy breaches or abuse, has raised $4.5 million in seed funding. Backers include AME Cloud Ventures, Morado Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Peterson Ventures, Mark Cuban, former Goldman CFO and CIO Marty Chavez, Stanford-StartX fund, and several founders. TechCrunch has more here.
Hubilo, a nine-month-old, San Francisco-based virtual events platform, has raised $4.5 million in seed funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from numerous individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.
Linktree, a 4.5-year-old, Melbourne, Australia-based developer of link-centric user profiles, raised $10.7 million in Series A funding co-led by Insight Partners and AirTree Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
ShearShare, a 3.5-year-old, Dallas, Tex.-based marketplace service connecting stylists with open seats at hair salons, has raised $2.3 million in seed funding from Precursor Ventures, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, and Structure Capital, among others, long with a non-dilutive cash grant from Google for Startups Black Founders Fund. TechCrunch has more here.
StreetShares, a seven-year-old, Reston, Va.-based lending-as-a-service startup to banks, credit unions and non-financial organizations, has raised $10 million in funding, including from Motley Fool Ventures and Ally Ventures. Finovate has more here.
New Funds
Gao Rong Capital, a six-year-old, Beijing-based, stage-agnostic venture firm that was formerly known as Banyan Capital, has closed two funds -- a new RMB-denominated fund and its fifth USD fund -- with collectively more than 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) in capital commitments, the company announced today. DealStreetAsia has more here.
Scale Venture Partners, the now 20-year-old, Foster City, Ca.-based, enterprise-focused venture firm, is looking to raised $500 million for its seventh fund, according to the WSJ, which says its hard cap is $600 million. The outfit closed its most recent fund with $400 million in 2018. More here.
NTT, the Japanese telecommunications giant, has partnered with Vab Goel, who previously spent 19 years with Norwest Venture Partners, on a new, independent venture firm called NTTVC that has $500 million to invest through its inaugural fund. Much more here.
The fair value of Airbnb’s common stock rose 10% last quarter to $69.76 a share, Airbnb’s CFO told shareholders Friday, according to The Information. That roughly equates to a $20 billion valuation.
Chinese financial-technology giant Ant Group is set to raise at least $34.4 billion from the world’s biggest-ever IPO, filings showed today, in a blockbuster deal that will bypass U.S. stock exchanges. The WSJ has more here.
Atea Pharmaceuticals, a six-year-old, Boston-based clinical stage biotech developing therapies for COVID-19 and other viral infections, announced terms for its IPO earlier today, revealing plans to raise $253 million by offering 11 million shares at a price range of between $22 to $24. At the midpoint of the proposed range, Atea Pharmaceuticals would command a fully diluted market value of $2.0 billion. The company has raised around $280 million from investors, shows Crunchbase. Its biggest outside shareholders include JPM Partners, Morningside Investments, Bain Capital, and Cormorant Private Healthcare Fund I. Renaissance Capital has more here.
Databricks, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based data analytics company, is planning to go public in an offering that could in the first half of next year, says Bloomberg. Databricks has raised nearly $900 million from investors, including Andreessen HorowitzCoatueNEATiger Global Management, and BlackRock. Bloomberg has more here.
Chinese technology giant ByteDance is reportedly in early stage talks to list some of its businesses including the short video app Douyin. Apparently, earlier this year, ByteDance spoke to both the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges. CNBC has more here.

Bayer said today it will pay as much as $4 billion for nine-year-old, North Carolina-baed Asklepios BioPharmaceutical to strengthen the German company’s drugmaking arm. As the WSJ explains it, the deal,  for which Bayer will pay $2 billion now and as much as a further $2 billion based on future success milestones, is a bet on cutting-edge gene therapy in which a functional gene is inserted to counter the effects of a disease caused by a missing or faulty gene. More here.
Kara Nortman has been promoted to co-managing partner of the L.A.-based venture firm Upfront Ventures. Longtime partner Mark Suster explains what that means here
VC Fred Wilson suggests a new post of his is a veiled reference to Donald Trump and the upcoming presidential election, but many on Twitter jumped to a different conclusion
A dispute between bond king Bill Gross and his next-door neighbor over a $1-million outdoor sculpture has devolved into police calls to their Laguna Beach mansions, multiple legal actions — and allegations that the billionaire investor blared the "Gilligan's Island" theme song on a loop at all hours to annoy his neighbor, says the L.A. Times.
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Essential Reads
With people spending more time and money on gaming, attention hog Facebook is adding free-to-play Netflix-like streamed games to its Facebook Gaming platform, a move expanding its content library to include more-complex and multiplayer titles. The WSJ has more here.
Things are getting heated in India: Reliance Retail, India’s largest retail chain, said last night that its proposed deal to acquire Future Group’s assets for a whopping $3.4 billion — against which rival Amazon has filed a legal proceeding — is fully enforceable under the Indian law and it intends to complete the deal “without any delay.”
Employees at venture-backed Verkada reportedly accessed the company's own facial recognition system to first, take photos of women colleagues, and then make sexually explicit jokes about them. Rather than fire them, Verkada's CEO opted instead to recycle some of their valuable equity. (This is the wrong response.)
Florida Man strikes again.
A very determined 104-year-old casts her ballot.
Wealthy squatters in New York.
Retail Therapy
A new generation of smaller AirPods is coming.


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