How Jeff Bezos beat the tabloids, funding for custom NFT storefronts, and RIP, David Swensen

May 6, 2021
Top News
Internet service providers funded an effort that yielded millions of fake comments supporting the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of so-called net neutrality rules in 2017, the New York attorney general said today. The effort generated roughly nine million comments to the agency and letters to Congress backing the rollback, almost all signed by people who had never agreed to the use of their names on such comments​. The New York Times has more here.
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A Conversation with Bison Trails, the AWS-Like Service Inside of Coinbase
Coinbase shares tumbled today to their their lowest point since the company began trading publicly on April 14. The market often moves in mysterious ways, but several drivers could be at play, including Coinbase’s high opening price at the time of its direct listing, its reliance on margins that are all but certain to drop owing to growing competition, and the lack of a lock-up period, meaning more insiders might now be offloading some of their highly valued shares, driving down their price in the process.
Whether Coinbase’s shares fall further still is an open question, but one early investor, Garry Tan, believes what outsiders misunderstand about Coinbase is its potential going forward. Indeed, Tan has said previously that a major revenue driver for the company could ultimately tie to a startup called Bison Trails (also backed by Tan) that Coinbase quietly acquired late last year for an estimated $80 million in stock and that Tan recently likened to an AWS inside of the cryptocurrency exchange.
Curious to learn more, we talked recently with Joe Lallouz, the cofounder and CEO of Bison Trails, which raised $35 million from investors and is now being run as an independent product line by Coinbase. We asked Lallouz — who previously cofounded and sold a company to Etsy — about the opportunity he’s chasing and how his 70-person team fends off what appears to be a growing number of direct competitors. Our conversation has been edited for length below. To listen to our full conversation, including more specifics about Bison’s operations, you can do that here.
Massive Fundings
Groups Recover Together, a nearly seven-year-old, Burlington, Ma.-based care platform focused on opioid addiction treatment, has raised $60 million in Series C financing. Oak HC/FT led the round, joining earlier investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Transformation Capital, RRE Ventures, Optum Ventures and Kaiser Permanente Ventures. HIT Consultant has more here.
Lightmatter, a 3.5-year-old, Boston-based company developing AI chips that use light signals rather than electrical signals, has raised $80 million in Series B funding. Viking Global Investors led the round, joined by HP Enterprise, Lockheed Martin, SIP Global Partners, and previous investors GV, Matrix Partners and Spark Capital. The company has now raised $113 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
Mainspring Energy, an 11-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based onsite power generation company, has raised $95 million in Series D funding led by Devonshire Investors. Other investors in the round included Princeville Capital, 40 North Ventures, Chevron Technology Ventures, and earlier backers Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, ClearSky, AEP, KCK, and Equinor. The company has now raised $228 million altogether. Axios has more here.
Material Bank, three-year-old, New York-based marketplace for design and construction materials that founded by design media magnate Adam Sandow, has raised $100 million in Series C funding co-led by General Catalyst and Durable Capital Partners. Business of Home has more here.
ReCharge, a nearly seven-year-old, Santa Monica, Ca.-based maker of subscription management software for e-commerce, has raised $227 million in Series B funding at a $2.1 billion valuation from Summit Partners, ICONIQ Growth and Bain Capital Ventures. The company has now raised $277 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
Vim, a six-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based company whose online service helps patients and healthcare providers find, schedule, and receive care from doctors and specialists, has raised $60 million in funding, including from insurance giant Anthem, pharma store chain Walgreens and Optum Ventures. Other investors include GreatPoint Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Frist Cressey Premera, and Blue Cross. Globes has more here.
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
Bitski, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that's building custom NFT storefronts for brands and creators, has raised $19 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz; the firm was joined by Jay-Z, MrBeast, Serena Williams and 3LAU, says TechCrunch. More here.
Nøie, a three-year-old, Copenhagen-based skincare startup, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Talis Capital, with participation from Inventure and numerous notable individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.
Razor Group, an eight-month-old, Berlin, Germany-based startup that, like so many others, is setting out to acquire independent third-party merchants that have gained traction on Amazon’s Marketplace, just closed on $25 million in equity funding -- and another $375 million in debt -- to scale those efforts. The mix of firms in the deal includes Victory Park Capital, BlackRock, 468 Capital, Redalpine, FJ Labs and Global Founders Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
Youibot, a four-year-old, Shenzhen, China-based startup that makes autonomous mobile robots for a range of scenarios, has raised $15.47 million in funding led by SoftBank Ventures Asia, the Seoul-based early-stage arm of the global investment behemoth. Earlier backers BlueRun Ventures and SIG also participated in the round. TechCrunch has more here.
Smaller Fundings
Metafy, a year-old, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based startup that's building a marketplace to match gamers with instructors, has raised $5.5 million in extended seed funding (to add to a previously closed $3.15 million round). Forerunner Ventures, DCM and Seven Seven Six provided the backing. TechCrunch has more here.
Sports-media outlet the Athletic is no longer in merger talks with news publisher Axios, the WSJ reported earlier today, but it said the company is continuing to pursue a deal that could expand its subscription-oriented business and that it views the New York Times Co. as a leading contender for a merger tie-up. More here.
It's official: following speculation earlier this week,, a maker of cloud-based software that simplifies, digitizes, and automates complex back-office financial operations for small and midsize businesses, is buying three-year-old, Draper, Ut.-based expense reporting startup Divvy in a stock and cash transaction valued at approximately $2.5 billion.
Kahoot, the eight-year-old, publicly traded, game-based learning company, says it's acquiring Clever, a nine-year-old, digital learning platform used widely among K-12 schools in the U.S. Kahoot will snap up Clever for a combination of cash and shares, at an enterprise value between $435 and $500 million, depending on the latter company’s performance and revenue in the 2021-22 school year. According to Crunchbase, Clever had raised roughly $43 million from investors. EdSurge has more here.
Jeff Blackburn, long Amazon's SVP of business and corporate development, left the company earlier this year after a year-long hiatus and soon after joined Bessemer Venture Partners as an investor. Five weeks later, he has transitioned out of that role and is now listed as an advisor to the firm and a special limited partner as he seeks out an operating role instead.
Bill Gates has already transferred stakes in a Coca-Cola bottler, a Mexican broadcaster and other companies worth nearly $2.4 billion to Melinda Gates, as two of the world’s richest people begin dividing their wealth
Emergence Capital's Jason Green is transitioning out of the venture firm he cofounded back in 2002, and he shares what's next.
David Swensen, the widely revered Yale University endowment chief, died last night at age 67. He'd undergone years of treatment for cancer. More here.
The New York Times examines investor and strategist Bradley Tusk's relationship with New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang and sees conflicts where Tusk says there are none. “Obviously, this is happening because [other] candidates and campaigns are behind in the polls and they’re looking for anything that can stick,” writes Tusk in a Medium post, adding: “I’m familiar with how this stuff works.”
About 29% of adults worldwide have said they would refuse a free vaccine if it were available to them.
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Essential Reads
The untold story of how Jeff Bezos beat the tabloids.
Google will soon switch on two-factor authentication by default.
Amazon delivery companies around the United States are encouraging reckless and dangerous driving by ordering delivery drivers to shut off an app called Mentor that Amazon uses to monitor drivers' speed and give them a safety score to prevent accidents. Drivers say they are being ordered to turn the app off by their bosses so that they can speed through their delivery routes in order to hit Amazon's delivery targets. In Vice.
Why people feel like victims.
Vaccine side effect, or have you just been alive for 40 years?
Ohio's finest.
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