Big earnings from big tech, wealthy execs join forces to boost aid to India, and banking for teens is all the rage (with VCs)

April 27, 2021
Top News
 
The CDC eased its guidelines today on the wearing of masks outdoors in the U.S., saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers. And those who are unvaccinated can go outside without masks in some cases, too.
 
Meanwhile, some U.S. lawmakers and wealthy tech execs have joined forces to boost aid to India as it grapples with a severe spike in coronavirus infections. U.S. Representative Ro Khanna, Democratic vice chair of the Congressional Caucus on India, tells Reuters that investor Vinod Khosla and other Indian-American tech executives at Google, IBM and Microsoft are working closely with the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India in trying to match Indian hospitals and other facilities with supplies of oxygen and other urgently needed medical equipment. They are also pushing the White House to do more for India as a surge in infections overwhelms hospitals, says the outlet.
 
Executives from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube testified before Congress today about the ways that their algorithms influence users and sometimes serve harmful misinformation. More here and here.
 
Speaking of big tech, Microsoft and Alphabet both reported major revenue growth today. 
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Founders Circle Raises $355 Million More to Buy Mostly Secondary Shares (but Primary, Too)
 
Founders Circle Capital, a nine-year-old, San Francisco-based investment firm that strikes agreements with private, venture-backed companies to buy some of the vested stock options of their founders and employees — so they can buy a house or just breathe a bit more easily —  has closed its newest fund with $355 million in capital commitments, bringing the firm’s total assets under management to nearly $1 billion.
 
Not surprisingly, the outfit, which has more competition than ever — both by other secondary investment firms, aggressive outfits like Tiger Global that routinely acquire secondary stakes in companies,  as well as special purpose acquisition companies that are taking companies public a lot faster and alleviating the need of early shareholders to cash out via private sales — is also introducing a new twist to its business.
 
Specifically, according to both cofounder Ken Loveless and the outfit’s chief people officer, Mark Dempster, Founders Circle is now offering startups so-called flexible capital, too. We talked with Loveless and Dempster via Zoom late last week about the new fund and generally what they are seeing out there. Excerpts from that chat, edited for length and clarity, follow.
 
This is your third fund. How does it compare with your earlier funds?
 
KL: We’ve raised three main funds. This is our third, but we’ve raised something like 17 entities [altogether], including some co-investment vehicles and special purpose vehicles to invest in some of our companies.
 
And you’re now changing your approach a bit. How so?
 
MD: [We’re now offering] a mix of primary and secondary [investment dollars] and we can [offer these] are any time and in any combination. These [investments] don’t have to happen during a certain [distinct] round of financing; we might get involved in eight to 10 different investments [tied to the company].
 
How has your world changed now that people perhaps see a light at the end of the tunnel, with companies becoming publicly traded entities in a variety of ways that we didn't see until more recently? Are employees or founders any more or less reluctant to share their shares in secondary transactions?
 
KL: There hasn’t been any significant change. We had a portfolio company go public in UiPath that was 16 years old and if you think about how many things change in your life over that kind of time period, it would be quite a long list. We also had [stakes] in DoorDash and Poshmark, and if you look at the time between when they were founded and became publicly traded, it was close to a decade for both. So [while there is some market receptivity for companies] that really are two years old or three years old, the average [time from launch to publicly traded company] is still 10-plus years on average.
 
A lot of outfits are competing for the same shares that you want to buy, including Tiger Global, which is paying very high prices in many cases. In addition to competing with these companies, would you sell your shares to them?
 
Massive Fundings
 
Automox, a six-year-old, Boulder, Co.-based cloud-native patch management platform, has raised $110 million in Series C funding led by Insight Partners, with added participation from Blackstone, Koch Disruptive Technologies, and TechOperators. VentureBeat has more here.
 
Cava, a 15-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based Mediterranean restaurant chain founded by three first-generation Greek Americans, has raised $190 million in Series F funding at a $1.3 billion valuation. T. Rowe Price led the round, joined by Invus Group, Declaration Partners, Equilibra Partners, SWaN & Legend Venture Partners, Mousse Partners, Revolution Growth and Lighthouse Investment Partners. Bloomberg has more here.
 
Clio, a 13-year-old, Vancouver, British Columbia-based software company that helps law practices run more efficiently, has raised $110 million in Series E round co-led by T. Rowe Price and OMERS Growth Equity at a post-money valuation of $1.6 billion. The investment also brings the company's total capital raised since inception to $386 million. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Crusoe Energy Systems, a three-year-old, Denver, Co.-based flare migration startup that converts gas into energy for bitcoin mining, has raised $128 million in Series B funding. Valor Equity Partners led the round,  joined by Lowercarbon Capital, DRW Venture Capital, Founders Fund, Bain Capital Ventures, Coinbase Ventures, Polychain Capital, KCK Group, Upper90, Winklevoss Capital, Exor, Zigg Capital and JB Straubel. More here.
 
Current, a nearly six-year-old, New York-based challenger bank that offers teen banking (it really markets to parents who are looking to control their kids' spending), has raised $220 million in Series D funding led by new investor Andreessen Horowitz. Other participants in the round include returning investors Tiger Global Management, TQ Ventures (the fund managed by media executive Scooter Braun), Avenir, Sapphire Ventures, Foundation Capital, Wellington Management and Expa. The funding follows fast on Current's $131 million Series C round, which closed late last year. TechCrunch has more here
 
Diamond Foundry, a nine-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of lab-grown diamonds, has raised $200 million from Fidelity at a $1.8 billion valuation. The Financial Times has more here.
 
Greenlight, a seven-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based fintech company that pitches parents on kid-friendly bank accounts, has raised $260 million in Series D funding round that nearly doubles its valuation to $2.3 billion just months after a $215 million round valued the business at $1.2 billion valuation. With the latest round, Greenlight has now raised over $550 million. Andreessen Horowitz led the new financing. Wellington Management, Owl Ventures, and LionTree Partners also joined the round, along with earlier backers TTV Capital, Canapi Ventures, Wells Fargo Strategic Capital, Bond, Fin VC, and Goodwater Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Guesty, a 7.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based maker of property management software for hosts on short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo, has raised $50 million in Series D funding. Apax Digital Fund led the round, joined by the AMI Opportunities Fund and earlier backers Viola Growth, Flashpoint, Vertex Ventures, Kingfisher Investment Advisors and La Maison Partners. The company has now raised $110 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here
 
Illumio, an eight-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based cybersecurity company, is in talks to raise around $250 million in funding led by Thoma Bravo at a $2.9 billion valuation, according to Bloomberg. To date, the company has raised roughly $330 million from a wide number of venture firms. More here.
 
Kry, a six-year-old, Sweden-based tele-health service and software tools company that connects clinicians with patients for remote consultations, has raised $312 million in Series D funding, just a year after raising roughly $195 million in Series C funding. The Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board co-led the newest round with Fidelity Management & Research. Earlier backers also participated, including The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Index Ventures, Accel, Creandum and Project A. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Placer.ai, a seven-year-old, Los Altos, Ca.-based location data analytics startup, has raised $50 million in Series B funding led by Product Hunt CEO Josh Buckley. Other participants included Fifth Wall Ventures, Superhuman founder Rahul Vohra and returning investors JBV Capital and Aleph VC. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Step, a three-year-old, San Francisco-base digital banking service aimed at teens (yes, third such funding today), has raised $100 million in Series C funding led by General Catalyst, with participation from earlier investors Coatue, Stripe, TikTok star Charli D’Amelio, The Chainsmokers, Will Smith and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Other investors in the round include Franklin Templeton, actor and musician Jared Leto, NBA All-Star Stephen Curry and former Square executives Sarah Friar, Jacqueline Reses and Gokul Rajaram. The company has now raised $175 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Vena, a 10-year-old, Toronto, Ontario-based company make that makes corporate performance management  software, has raised $242 million in Series C funding from Vista Equity Partners, which takes a minority stake in the company. The company has raised $363 million altogether over the years. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
 
Aleo, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup whose platform is designed support decentralized, private applications, has raised $28 million funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. Other backers in the round include Placeholder, Coinbase Ventures, Galaxy Digital, Polychain Capital, Scalar Capital, Slow Ventures, Variant Capital, and Ethereal Ventures. The Block has more here.
 
CareStack, a six-year-old, Thiruvananthapuram, India-based maker of practice management software for dental offices, has raised $22.5 million in funding from Delta Dental of CaliforniaSteadView CapitalEight RoadsAccel, and F-Prime Capital. Business Today has more here.
 
Databook, a six-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based customer intelligence platform that aims to drive enterprise sales productivity, has raised $16 million in Series A funding. M12 and Salesforce Ventures co-led the round, joined by earlier backers Threshold Ventures, Haystack and Firebolt. VentureBeat has more here.
 
Gridential Energy, an 11-year-old, Santa Clara, Ca.-based battery developer that says it's developing an advanced Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) battery as an inexpensive, recyclable alternative to traditional lithium-ion batteries, has raised $12 million in funding. The firm 1955 Capital led the round, joined by Silicon Valley Bank, August Capital cofounder David Marquardt, renewables exec Yumin Liu, East Penn Manufacturing, Crown Battery and the Roda Group. Crunchbase News has more here.
 
Honorlock, a seven year-old, Boca Raton, Fla.-based authenticated proctoring platform aimed at ensuring the integrity of test taking online, has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by Owl Ventures, with participation from Defy Partners, Arsenal Growth and earlier backers. More here. More here.
 
LiquiGlide, a nine-year-old Cambridge, Ma.-based company that says its tech eliminates friction between liquids and solids to allow liquids to flow with ease, has raised $13.5 million funding, including from Structure Capital and Scientia Ventures. More here.
 
n8n, a two-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based workflow automation tool, has raised $12 million in Series A funding. Felicis Ventures led the round, joined by Sequoia Capital, firstminute Capital, and Harpoon Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Plus One Robotics, a five-year-old, San Antonio, Tex.-based company that's primarily focused on computer vision software for robotics in logistics and warehouse settings, has raised $33 million Series B led by McRock Capital and Translink Ventures, with added participation from BMWi Ventures, Kensington Capital Partners, Ironspring Ventures, and earlier investors. The company has now raised a little more than $40 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Qover, a five-year-old, Brussels-based insurance startup, has raised €20.7 in Series B funding led by Prime Ventures, with participation from Cathay Innovation and earlier investors Anthemis and Alven. The company has now raised €35.6 million altogether. EU Startups has more here.
 
Sesame, a three-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based a cash-pay marketplace for healthcare services, has raised $24 million in new funding, including from Giant Ventures, Industry Ventures, and Coefficient Capital, along with earlier backers General Catalyst, Entree Capital, and Atreides Management. The company has now raised nearly $50 million altogether. Forbes has more here.
 
Supersapiens, a two-year-old, Atlanta, Ga.-based real-time glucose-monitoring startup focused on athletes' energy management, has raised $13.5 million led by MICA Ventures. More here.
 
Veryfi, a four-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based data accounting automation platform, has raised $12 million in Series A funding. NewView Capital led the round, joined by TI Platform Management and Act One Ventures. Forbes has more here.
 
ZenGo, a nearly three-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based mobile app that serves as a non-custodial wallet for cryptocurrencies (meaning it doesn't manage assets but promises to make it easier for its customers to do this), has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Insight Partners. Other investors in the round include Distributed Global, Austin Rief Ventures, and earlier backers Benson Oak, Samsung Next, Elron, Collider Ventures, and FJ Labs. TechCrunch has more here
 
Smaller Fundings
 
FlavorCloud, a four-year-old, Seattle-based startup that helps e-commerce companies ship products around the globe, raised $6.3 million in Series A funding led by Mucker Capital. Other investors include Rise of the Rest and Willow Group. The company has now raised $8.6 million altogether. GeekWire has more here.
 
Instreamatic, a six-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based company that can insert interactive voice ads into an audio stream, has raised $6.1 million in Series A funding led by Progress Ventures, with participation from Accomplice and Google Assistant Investments. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Materials Zone, a three-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup that uses AI to speed up materials research, today announced that it has raised a $6 million seed funding round led by Insight Partners, with participation from crowdfunding platform OurCrowd. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Pendle Finance, a seven-month-old decentralized finance protocol that allows users to tokenize and sell future yields, has completed a private investment round worth $3.5 million. Numerous companies contributed to the round, including CMS, DeFi Alliance, Lemniscap, Hashkey Capital, imToken and Spartan Group. Cointelegraph has more here.
 
Toucan, a nearly two year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based startup whose Chrome browser extension scans the text of any English-language website and automatically translates some of the words into another language, like a browser-based version of language flashcards, has raised $3 million in seed funding led by GSV Ventures, with participation from Amplifyher Ventures, Wonder Ventures, Golden Ventures, Halogen Ventures, Vitalize Ventures and unnamed individual investors. TechCrunch has more here
 
Weav, a six-year-old, New York-based maker of an API for commerce platforms, has raised $4.3 million. Foundation Capital led the round, joined by Y Combinator, Abstract Ventures, Box Group, LocalGlobe, Operator Partners, Commerce Ventures, and SV Angel. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Not-Saying-How-Much Fundings
 
LIT Method, a five-year-old, L.A.-based company that has created an online platform to stream low impact workouts and developed an at-home strength machine that combines cardio and strength training, just raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Jay-Z's Marcy Ventures. The round also includes an investment from former L.A. Dodger Adrian Gonzalez. Popsugar has more here.
New Funds
 
Turner Novak, a former investment analyst who worked briefly at Afore Capital and Gelt Venture Capital, has closed on roughly $10 million in capital commitments for a seed-stage firm called Banana Capital that is based (with Novak) in Ann Arbor, Mi.. The plan is to write checks ranging from $25,000 to $300,000; limited partners in include Winnie co-founder Sara Mauskopf, Andreessen Horowitz general partner Sriram Krishnan and GGV managing partner Hans Tung. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Main Sequence, a four-year-old venture firm launched by the Australian government, has pooled together A$250 million for a vehicle focused on deep tech startups, including with backing from earlier investors Horizons Ventures, Hostplus, Lockheed Martin, Temasek, private investors from Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and Mutual Trust, and family offices. The new fund is the outfit's second vehicle. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Positive Ventures, a nearly six-year-old, Sao Paulo, Brazil-based venture firm focused on startups that tackle societal challenges, has secured $10 million for its latest fund, it tells TechCrunch. More here.
Exits
 
Family tracking app Life360 this morning announced it is spending $37 million in stock and debt to acquire Chicago-based Jiobit, the maker of a wearable location device designed for use by families with younger children, pets, or seniors. If certain performance metrics are met within two calendar years following the deal’s close, the deal price could increase to $54.5 million. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Unilever has agreed to buy Onnit, an 11-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based food supplement brand. Terms of the deal aren't being disclosed. It looks like Onnit might not have taken on outside funding (note that we're not positive about this). More here.
Going Public
 
Despite political tensions between the U.S. and China, Chinese start-ups remain intent on listing in New York. About 60 Chinese companies are planning to go public in the U.S. this year, Vera Yang, chief China representative for the New York Stock Exchange, tells CNBC.
People
 
A consortium led by Spotify owner Daniel Ek is reportedly planning a bid to buy the football club Arsenal, sources tell ESPN. More here.
 
It looks like someone shelled out $50,000 in Ethereum to acquire an NFT of former FCC chair Ajit Pai drinking from his famed Reese’s mug while holding a photograph of himself drinking from said mug (while also, says the description, chairing a commission meeting).
 
Marketing startup Iterable has dismissed its CEO over violations of company policy, Iterable said in a note to employees yesterday. The fired CEO, Justin Zhu, said the board’s chief reason for ousting him was that he took LSD, an illegal drug in the U.S., before a meeting in 2019. Zhu tells Bloomberg he was experimenting by taking a limited amount of the drug, or microdosing, in an effort to boost his focus. More here.
 
Eight college friends who launched an interactive comedy room with a dating-game format on Clubhouse that went viral overnight have signed with talent agency WME. Hollywood Reporter has more here.
Data
 
A new study by Yale researchers provides evidence that interviewees are judged based on their social status seconds after they start to speak.
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Essential Reads
 
China is investigating delivery giant Meituan over suspected antitrust practices, the latest move by Beijing to tighten its grip on the country’s powerful tech industry, notes the WSJ. China’s top market regulator, the State Administration for Market Regulation, on Monday said it had launched a probe into Hong Kong-listed Meituan for suspected monopolistic behaviors, including the practice of “er xuan yi,” or “choose one out of two.” The practice prevents merchants from selling their goods on multiple platforms. More here.
 
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today announced a slew of features Instagram is working on to help creators generate more money from their content.
 
Apple honcho Eddy Cue wanted to bring iMessage to Android a long time ago, but the idea was scuttled.
 
An electric car whose upgrades include an entire lifestyle.
Detours
 
 
How Hollywood makes fake crowds look real.
 
Important: "Citizen Kane" has lost its perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes, making "Paddington 2" the new greatest film of all time.
Retail Therapy
 
An electric crossover wagon by Porsche that we don't *entirely* understand. (We didn't "get" the MINI Countryman, either, and we see they are still making these, so.)
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