Tesla backs out of accepting Bitcoin, Apple backs out of employing a controversial employee, and turnover at Waymo continues

May 12, 2021
 
Hello! No column today but more tomorrow.:)
Top News
CEO Elon Musk has suspended users' ability to purchases Tesla vehicles with Bitcoin. Musk tweeted that the decision ties to Tesla's concerns about the "rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel," adding that Tesla will "not be selling any Bitcoin and we intend to use it for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy." He added that Tesla is also "looking at other cryptocurrencies that use" less than 1% of Bitcoin’s energy per transaction.
 
Apple has abruptly parted ways with recent hire Antonio García Martínez after employees wrote a public petition asking for an investigation into his hiring. García Martínez is a former Facebook product manager and the author of Chaos Monkeys, a book the employees said they viewed as both racist and sexist. Garcia Martinez has already secured a lucrative publishing deal for his newest tell-all, Bad Seed: My 96 Hours at Apple.*
 
The massive fuel pipeline Colonial Pipeline said late today that  it has restarted operations after being shut down for five days by a gang of hackers. In related news, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order today aimed at strengthening U.S. cybersecurity defenses.
 
*Kidding. 
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Massive Fundings
 
DrFirst, a 21-year-old, Rockville, Md.-based company that makes e-prescription and telehealth-related software products for healthcare providers, payers and life science companies, has raised $50 million in funding from earlier backer Sixth Street Growth, the growth investing platform of investment firm Sixth Street. The company has now raised $135 million altogether, all of it since the start of 2020. FierceBiotech has more here.
 
Forte, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based blockchain-based gaming infrastructure startup, has raised $185 million in Series B funding at a $1 billion post-money valuation, reports Axios. Griffin Gaming Partners led the round, joined by Union Grove Venture Partners and earlier backers Andreessen Horowitz and Battery Ventures. More here.
 
Lyst, an 11-year-old, London-based fashion shopping platform that invites users to buy clothes and accessories from thousands of online stores, has raised $85 million in a round that saw participation from Fidelity International, Novator Capital, Giano Capital and C4 Ventures, alongside earlier backers Draper Esprit, 14W, Accel, Balderton Capital, Venrex and LVMH. Business of Fashion has more here.
 
Impress, a two-year-old, Barcelona-based direct-to-consumer orthodontics startup, has raised a $50 million Series A funding round led by CareCapital (a dental division of Hillhouse Capital in Asia), along with Nickleby Capital, UNIQA Ventures, numerous individual investors, and the company's earlier backers, including TA Ventures and Bynd VC. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Vinted, a 13-year-old, Vilnius, Lithuania-based marketplace for second-hand clothes and home goods, has raised $303 million in new funding at a post-money valuation of $4.5 billion, which is way up from the $1 billion valuation the company was assigned during its last funding round in 2019. The new round was led by EQT Growth, with participation from earlier backers Accel, Burda Principal Investments, Insight Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Sprints Capital. The company has now raised at least $563.7 million in funding, per Crunchbase data. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
 
All Day Kitchens, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company that was formerly known as Virtual Kitchen Co., has raised $20 million in Series B led by Founders Fund, with participation from Khosla Ventures, Doordash CEO Tony Xu, and Opendoor CEO Eric Wu, along with earlier backers Andreessen Horowitz and Base10.  The company has now raised $37.5 million altogether. The Spoon has more here.
 
AMSilk, a 13-year-old, Munich, Germany-based industrial supplier of vegan silk biopolymers, has raised $35.26 million in funding led by Novo Growth, the growth equity arm of Novo Holdings. More here.
 
Breadcrumbs, a year-old, San Francisco-based lead scoring platform that aims to help companies rate and score current and potential customers, has raised $5.4 million in seed funding led by Blue Canyon, with participation from Active Capital, Primo Ventures, Hustle Fund, Stormbreaker and several angel investors. Crunchbase News has more here.
 
Collective, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based subscription-based back-office platform for the self-employed has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by earlier investor General Catalyst and Sound Ventures, which were joined by a long list of individual investors. The company has now raised $28.65 million, including through a sizable seed round. More here.
 
Planck, a five-year-old, New York-based AI-based data platform for commercial insurance underwriting, has raised $20 million in funding co-led by 3L Capital and Greenfield Partners, along with earlier investors Team8, Viola Fintech, Arbor Ventures and Eight Roads. The company has now raised $48 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here
 
Smaller Fundings
 
Aryeo, a two-year-old, Boston-based real estate content platform that likens itself to a Dropbox system that makes it easier for agents to store and retrieve listing photos and drone footage, has raised $3.65 million in seed funding co-led by Hyperplane Venture Capital and Amplo. Crunchbase News has more here.
 
Cortex, a seven-year-old, Nashville, Tn.-based analytics "decarbonization" software company that helps buildings figure out how to reduce their energy use, their energy spend, and their emissions, has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by 4490 Ventures. Cortex has now raised $11 million altogether. Crunchbase News has more here.
 
Divibank, a year-old, São Paulo-based financing platform offering LatAm businesses access to growth capital, has raised $3.6 million in seed funding led by San Francisco-based Better Tomorrow Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Encycle, a nearly nine-year-old, San Marcos, Ca.-based software tech company that aims to help commercial and industrial customers improve the efficiency of their HVAC systems, has raised $7.5 million in funding led by Cycle Capital. More here.
 
LumaTax, a five-year-old, Seattle-based sales tax compliance and audit startup, has raised $4 million in new funding led by Trilogy Equity Partners. GeekWire has more here.
 
Pomelo, a three-month-old, Buenos Aires-based startup that's aiming to build a fintech-as-a-service platform for Latin America, has raised $9 million in seed funding led by Index Ventures and Brazil’s monashees, with participation from QED’s Fontes, Max Levchin’s SciFi, Latitud, Biz Stone’s Future Positive, 20VC, Addition, FJ Labs and a16z’s Angela Strange, as well as numerous founders. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Wilder World, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup creating a “metaverse” around art that's monetized by nonfungible tokens, has raised $3 million in funding. (The company says to think of what it's building as a "fully immersive, 3D virtual world that can be accessed with a VR headset.") Spartan Group led the round, joined by blockchain investors DCG, Animoca Brands, Republic Realm, and Signum Capital. VentureBeat has the story here.
 
Not-Saying-How-Much Fundings
 
LiveBarn, a six-year-old, Montreal, Canada-based subscription-based streaming service for amateur and youth sports, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Susquehanna Growth Equity. More here.
 
WeRide, a four-year-old, Guangzhou, China-based autonomous driving company, has raised new funds valuing the company at $3.3 billion dollars. The Nissan-backed start-up did not disclose the sum raised but said it totaled “hundreds of millions” of dollars from venture capital investors including IDG Capital and Sky9 Capital. A number of other backers and existing investors participated in the round. CNBC has more here.
New Funds
 
Ethereal Ventures, the latest blockchain fund to emerge from Joseph Lubin’s extended ConsenSys family, is seeking to raise $75 million, according to regulatory documents spied earlier today by Coindesk. Ethereal counts Lubin and Min Teo, a partner at ConsenSys’ venture wing, as directors. More here.
 
IVP, the 40-year-old, Silicon Valley venture firm, announced today that it has raised $1.8 billion for growth-stage deals. The new IVP XVII fund tops the firm’s last $1.5 billion vehicle, bringing its total committed capital to $8.7 billion. Bloomberg has more here.
 
Madrona Venture Labs, a Seattle-based startup studio, has secured $8 million in funding for its fourth fund from Madrona Venture Group and tech leaders such as Spencer Rascoff, Elena Donio, and Julie Larson-Green to co-build startups with founders. GeekWire has more here.
People
 
Waymo’s chief financial officer, Ger Dwyer, and its head of automotive partnerships and corporate development, Adam Frost — two longtime executives at the autonomous vehicle company — are leaving this month, departures that comes amid some executive shuffling following CEO John Krafcik’s exit earlier this year. TechCrunch has the scoop here.
 
VMware has named veteran executive Raghu Raghuram as CEO, succeeding Pat Gelsinger, who left to join Intel. Raghuram has spent the last 17 years with VMware. TechCrunch has more here.
 
To defend itself against regulators, the cryptocurrency platform Ripple Labs recently hired Mary Jo White, the former chairwoman of the commission during the Obama administration.
 
Jillian Williams has  joined the venture firm Cowboy Ventures as a principal. Williams, who is based in New York, was previously a principal with the fintech-focused firm Anthemis. More here.
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Essential Reads
 
An experimental device that turns thoughts into text has allowed a man who was left paralyzed by an accident to construct sentences swiftly on a computer screen. The man was able to type with 95% accuracy(!) just by imagining he was handwriting letters on a sheet of paper, a team reported today in the journal Nature. NPR has more here.
 
A digital token that was launched Monday and goes by the name Internet Computer is already one of the largest cryptocurrencies in the world, with a market value of about $45 billion. As Bloomberg explains it, the coin’s underlying network uses smart contracts, which puts it in direct competition with Ethereum and many other outfits that are right now trying to steal Ethereum's thunder. 
 
Prime today, gone tomorrow: some top Chinese marketplace businesses on Amazon have been yanked over violations, reports TechCrunch; the move has reportedly startled Chinese exporters.
 
After landing the biggest profit in the history of a Japanese company, SoftBank has hiked its committed capital in its second Vision Fund to $30 billion from $10 billion. CNBC takes a look here.
Detours
 
Are plant milks good for you?
 
A brief history of people losing their minds in Antartica.
 
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