The rise of the Thielists, why Dogecoin is soaring, and Lemonade's sour response to a security flaw

May 13, 2021
 
Thursday!
Top News
 
Americans who are fully vaccinated can go without masks or physical distancing in most cases, even when they are indoors or in large groups, the CDC said today.
 
Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million to Eastern European hackers last Friday, contradicting reports earlier this week that the company had no intention of paying an extortion fee to help restore the country’s largest fuel pipeline, reports Bloomberg. The company paid the ransom in "difficult-to-trace cryptocurrency within hours after the attack," says the outlet. Afterward, the hackers reportedly provided the beleaguered operator with a decrypting tool to restore its disabled computer network, but it was so slow that the company continued using its own backups to help restore the system.
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Shopify Has Produced a Lot of Wealth -- Turning Former Employees Into Founders and Investors
 
Last month, Jean-Michel Lemieux, the chief technology officer of Shopify, and the company's chief talent officer, Brittany Forsyth, both announced that they are stepping down from their roles with the e-commerce giant. Chief legal officer Joe Frasca is also set to step down, with all three ending their tenures next month. In their next chapters, all seem keen to advise, invest in or even launch startups, joining a growing number of former Shopify executives and employees to do the same.
 
For an enterprise of Shopify's size -- the 15-year-old, 7,000-person, Ottawa-based outfit boasts a $130 billion market cap -- that's not a surprise. Still, because of the vast wealth that Shopify has helped create, its former employees look to have an impact on the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem like no company before it.
 
Take Craig Miller, formerly the chief product officer of Shopify who left the company back in October. He'd already invested in several venture funds that are focused on clean tech and Canada while still working full time; now, he's investing both his money and time in individual companies that he thinks "have a real shot at making a big social impact."
 
Some of these include tools that enable people to run their own businesses, including Housecall Pro, and startups looking to reverse climate change, like the carbon capture startup Planetary Hydrogen.
 
Miller says his time is more compelling to the founders, which include former Shopify colleagues. "Raising money is important, but there's already more than enough people willing to invest money in them," he says, so most of his value comes from talking with teams about how to scale up their startups given there are "so few people who know how to drive huge growth in a company, have seen a company [grow] from $100 million to $100 billion plus, [and] who know how to think about scaling a product to millions of users."
 
There aren't a lot of people on the planet who've lived through that kind of hyper growth, he notes, but that's especially true in Canada, "where there are basically no role models."
 
Massive Fundings
 
Axtria, an 11-year-old, Berkeley Heights, N.J.-based company that makes life sciences data analytics software, has raised $150 million from Bain Capital Tech Opportunities, a mid-market buyout and late-stage growth fund, at a post-money valuation of $1 billion. Bloomberg has more here.
 
Cue Health, an 11-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based diagnostic testing company, has raised $235 million in new funding from Perceptive Advisors, MSD Capital, Koch Strategic Platforms and earlier investors Johnson & Johnson, Decheng Capital, CAVU Ventures and ACME Capital. Cue reportedly has hired bankers for an IPO. More here.
 
Flare Therapeutics, a new, Cambridge, Ma.-based biotech that's being launched out of Third Rock Ventures and targeting transcription factors to develop precision medicines for cancer and other diseases, raised $82 million in Series A funding. Third Rock led the round, joined by Boxer Capital, Nextech Invest, Casdin Capital, Invus Financial Advisors and Eventide Asset Management. FierceBiotech has more here.

Inari, a five-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based plant breeding startup whose gene-edited seeds aim to enhance crop yield while requiring less fertilizer and water, has raised $208 million in Series D funding at a $1.2 billion valuation co-led by Flagship Pioneering (which founded the startup). Other investors in the round include G Squared, Alexandria Venture Investments, Investment Corp. of Dubai, Rivas Capital, Banque Pictet and Pavilion Capital. Bloomberg has more here.
 
MasterClass, the eight-year-old, San Francisco-based subscription-based streaming platform that features classes from wide variety of experts in their respective fields, just raised raised $225 million in Series F funding, led by Fidelity Management & Research Company. Others in the round include Baillie Gifford, Balyasny Asset Management and Eldridge, along with previous investors IVP, Javelin, NEA and Owl Ventures. The company has now raised more than $475 million altogether, and its post-money valuation of $2.75 billion is triple what it was a year ago. CNBC has more here.
 
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
 
Authomize, a two-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based cloud authorization startup, has raised $16 million in Series A funding led by Innovation Endeavors, with participation from Blumberg CapitalEntree Capital and M12. The company has now raised $22 million altogether. VentureBeat has more here
 
BluBracket, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup that focuses on keeping source code repositories secure, even in distributed environments, has raised $12 million in Series A funding. Evolution Equity Partners led the round, joined by earlier backers Unusual Ventures, Point72 Ventures, SignalFire and Firebolt Ventures. The company has now raised $19.5 million so far. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Morressier, a seven-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based virtual events platform that specializes in academic conferences, has raised $18 million in Series A funding led by Owl Ventures, with participation from Cherry Ventures and Redalpine. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Relay Financial, a three-year-old, Toronto-based fintech startup that say it's trying to fully automate the finance function for small businesses, has raised an $18.2 million CAD ($15 million) in Series A funding. Bain Capital Ventures led the round, joined by earlier backers Better Tomorrow Ventures, Garage Capital, Tribe Capital, Panache, and Amaranthine. BetaKit has more here.
 
Treasury Prime, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup whose software helps banks automate and accelerate routine tasks, has raised $20 million in Series B funding from earlier backers. Deciens Capital and QED Investors co-led the round; they were joined by SaaStr Fund and Susa Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Smaller Fundings
 
Alba Orbital, an eight-year-old, Glasgow, Scotland-based company whose satellites aims to provide Earth observations at intervals of 15 minutes instead of hours or days, has raised $3.4 million in seed funding. Metaplanet Holdings led the round, joined by Y Combinator (whose program Alba passed through recently), Liquid2, Soma, Uncommon Denominator, Zillionize and numerous angels. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Chef Robotics, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based robotics and AI company focused on automating certain aspects of commercial food prep, says it has raised $7.7 million in combined pre-seed and seed funding, including from: Kleiner Perkins, Promus Ventures, Construct Capital, Bloomberg Beta, BOLD Capital Partners, Red and Blue Ventures, Gaingels, Schox VC, longtime investor Stewart Alsop and Tau Ventures, among others. TechCrunch has more here.
 
DeepScribe, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based AI-driven platform for medical note-taking, has raised $5.2 million in seed funding led by Bee Partners. VentureBeat has more here.
 
Hidden Lead Games, a 1.5-year-old, L.A.-based multiplayer online gaming studio at work on a three-on-three multiplayer online battle arena game, has raised $3.2 million led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. VentureBeat has more here.

Lightforge Games, a year-old, Raleigh, N.C.-based role-playing game studio founded by former Blizzard Entertainment and Epic Games executives, has raised $5 million in first-round funding from Galaxy InteractiveNetEase GamesDreamhavenMaveron and 1UP Ventures. VentureBeat has more here.

Nano Technologies, a young, Vietnam-based startup that lets workers across the country access their earned wages immediately through an app called VUI, has raised $3 million in seed funding. Golden Gate Ventures and Venturra Discovery co-led the round, joined by FEBE VenturesOpenspace Ventures and Goodwater Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Worksome, a four-year-old, Copenhagen-based platform that connects companies with "freelance talent," has raised $13 million Series A funding, including from the Danish business angel and investor on the local version of the Dragons’ Den TV program Løvens Hule and family home manufacturer Lind & Risør. TechCrunch has more here.
New Funds
 
Marc Lore, the Jet.com founder (and later Walmart’s former e-commerce chief), is teaming up with baseball star Alex Rodriguez on a new venture firm called Vision Capital People that will start with $50 million of their own money and that aims to make concentrated bets on digital retail companies, nabbing stakes of 40% and upwards in exchange for their time, expertise, and networks. CNBC has more here.
 
The fund of funds firm Top Tier Capital Partners says it has closed on nearly €260 million ($310 million) in new capital commitments for a dedicated European investment fund. Focused almost entirely on European funds with some investments in Israel, the Luxembourg-based investment fund will be used to invest broadly across the region, including in niche-focused venture funds and high-growth, expansion-stage tech startups. The fund will also invest into strategic secondaries and co-investments. More here.
Exits
 
Cedar, a New York-based patient engagement platform that raised $200 million in Series D funding in March led by Tiger Global Management, bringing its total funding to $350 million and its valuation to $3.2 billion valuation, has acquired Ooda Health, a four-year-old healthcare tech startup that looks to have raised $42.5 million altogether, per Crunchbase. Pymnts has more here.
 
DataRobot, a nine-year-old, Boston-based automated machine learning company, has acquired Zepl, a cloud data science and analytics platform. Terms of the deal aren't being disclosed. Zepl was founded in 2016 and raised $13 million along the way, according to Crunchbase data. TechCrunch has more here.
People
 
Jeff Blackburn, the  high-level Amazon exec who just recently left after more than two decades to become a venture capitalist with Bessemer Venture Partners, is boomeranging right back to Amazon, assuming a newly created role that gives him oversight over the company’s consolidated media group. Variety has more here.
 
New Relic, the applications performance monitoring company, announced today that founder Lew Cirne is stepping down as CEO and moving into the executive chairman role. Bill Staples, a software industry vet who joined the company last year as chief product officer, will take over as top banana. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Bill McGlashan, the former TPG exec who was caught up in the college admissions cheating scandal of 2019, was sentenced yesterday by a judge for paying to have his son's college entrance exam scores corrected. He will serve 90 days in prison and pay a $250,000 fine. "Without a doubt, a part of my father died the day of his arrest," McGlashan's son George McGlashan told the judge in a two-page letter before his father's sentencing. "His inexplicable behavior . . . is a total exception to the way he has lived his life." The SF Chronicle has the story here.
 
One day after tweeting that Tesla will no longer accept Bitcoin as payment for its cars, causing a cryptocurrency freakout, CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he is now "Working with Doge devs to improve system transaction efficiency. Potentially promising." (Doge = Dogecoin, the meme-based cryptocurrency that was the center of attention during last weekend's episode of "SNL.")
Data
 
Alibaba had its first quarterly operating loss since it went public in 2014 after Beijing slapped a record $2.8 billion fine on the nation’s largest e-commerce company for abusing its market position, reports The Associated Press. The loss tied to the anti-monopoly fine was 7.66 billion yuan ($1,170 million) for the quarter that ended in March, though revenue growth was 64%, reaching 187.4 billion yuan ($28.6 million). At the opening bell on the NYSE today, shares tumbled more than 6%. More here.
 
Shares of Bumble fell sharply today, dipping below its IPO price of $43. The company reported first-quarter results yesterday and issued what some analysts considered cautious guidance. The dating company’s stock closed down 14.3% today. Earlier in the day, shares dipped as much as 17% to hit an all-time low of $38.91 apiece. CNBC has more here.
 
Coinbase stock slipped after hours today after the cryptocurrency exchange reported first-quarter results that slightly missed estimates — marking its first report since its IPO last month after investing in Bitcoin took off last year. The results arrived as the cryptocurrency exchange faces questions about rival crypto platforms, widening its product offerings and how it might put its cash to use. Investors Business Daily has more here.
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Essential Reads
 
The four-year-old cryptocurrency exchange Binance -- the largest in the world -- is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice, Bloomberg reports, with officials who handle money laundering and tax offenses in particular taking a interest in Binance’s business. More here.
 
An activist short seller has written a letter to the chief executive of insurance giant Lemonade with details of an “accidentally discovered” security flaw that exposes customers’ account data. In a tweet, Lemonade’s president said the bug is “not a vulnerability, it’s by design.” (It does not seem like a great design.) TechCrunch has more here.
 
The rise of the "Thielists." 
Detours
 
How the spy who gave away England's biggest secrets escaped from prison.
 
Why the Yankees Covid outbreak may be bad news for ditching masks.
 
Retail Therapy
 
Eye Candy in London.
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