Meme-based dating, a ban on crypto mining, and Amazon eats one of the world's oldest film studios

May 26, 2021
 
Hello!
Top News
 
James Bond, meet Jeff Bezos.
 
SEC Chairman Gary Gensler told the House Appropriations Committee today in prepared remarks that his staff is developing ideas for new rules or guidelines for blank-check firms known as special-purpose acquisition companies or SPACs, with Gensler questioning whether the SPAC structure appropriately protects small investors. The WSJ has the story here.
 
Iran is temporarily banning cryptocurrency mining after some of the country’s major cities experienced repeated blackouts. President Hassan Rouhani said that the ban would last until September 22nd. The Verge has more here.
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Meme-Based Dating Has Arrived: Meet Schmooze
Vidya Madhavan always wanted to be in business. Growing up in India, she thought she might be in the business of running a factory, given the power and influence of outfits like Tata Group, the Indian multinational conglomerate.
 
She certainly had an affinity for school, graduating at the top of her high school class, nabbing a mechanical engineering degree in India and more recently landing at Stanford's business school. Except that instead of create the more traditional business she once had in mind, Madhavan found herself tinkering with an entirely different idea: a matchmaking app called Schmooze that combines machine learning and memes to connect people based on what Madhavan calls a humor algorithm.
 
The idea dates back several years when, as an analyst with McKinsey in India who was debating whether or not to attend grad school in California, Madhavan cold-emailed 10 people on LinkedIn who she could see attended U.S. business schools and hoped might be helpful. Only one of them replied, but over the next couple of days, she says, "we exchanged, like, 200 emails, all of them fundamentally jokes."
 
Reader, she is now married to that person. Indeed, she says it's because she believes their shared sense of humor brought them together that she began tinkering with the idea of Schmooze, initially as a way to foster new friendships. It was when she saw the way things were trending -- people were really looking for a love match -- that she refocused the idea as a dating app for Gen Z users who already communicate largely with memes.
 
Massive Fundings
 
Akili Interactive, a 10-year-old, Boston-based digital therapeutics company that treats cognitive deficiency and tackles symptoms associated with medical conditions across neurology and psychiatry, including attention-deficit hyperactivity/disorder and major depressive disorder, has
raised $110 million in Series D funding. Neuberger Berman Funds led the round, joined by Polaris Partners, Mirae Assets, Shionogi & Co, and New Leaf Venture Partners. FierceBiotech has more here.
 
Clear Labs, a seven-year-old, San Carlos, Ca.-based molecular food safety testing, has raised $60 million in Series C funding co-led by Counterpoint Global and T. Rowe Price Associates. Other investors in the round include Redmile Group, Menlo Ventures, Wing Ventures, GV, HBM Genomics, Khosla Ventures, Felicis Ventures, and Dafgard. More here.
 
CMX, a 10.5-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based maker of quality management software for enterprises, has raised $50 million in Series A funding led by Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital, with participation from Morgan Stanley Private Credit. More here.
 
Paysend, a four-year-old, London-based mobile-based payments platform that currently offers international money transfers, global accounts, and business banking and e-commerce for SMBs, has raised $125 million in Series B funding. One Peak led the round, joined by Infravia Growth Capital, Hermes GPE Innovation Fund, and Plug and Play. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Perch, an 18-month-old, Boston-based acquirer of Amazon third-party brands, has raised $775 million in Series A funding led by Softbank Vision Fund 2, with participation from Spark Capital and Victory Park Capital. The company has now raised more than $900 million altogether. Forbes has more here.

Qualified, a nearly three-year-old, San Francisco-based sales and marketing platform for companies that use Salesforce, raised $51 million. Salesforce Ventures led the round, joined by Norwest Venture Partners and Redpoint Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.

Salt Security, a five-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based startup that’s building a network of services to help those using and producing APIs to identify and eradicate vulnerabilities to bad actors, has raised $70 million in Series C funding led by Advent International, with participation from Alkeon Capital, DFJ Growth, Sequoia Capital, Tenaya Capital, S Capital VC, and Y Combinator. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Snappy, a six-year-old, New York-based gifting platform used by companies like Microsoft, Adobe, and Uber to send gifts to employees and other stakeholders, has raised $70 million in Series C funding led by GGV Capital. Earlier backers 83North, Saban Ventures, and Hearst Ventures also joined the round, which brings the company's investment total up to $100 million. Inc. has more here.
 
SpotOn, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup trying to take on Stripe with software for small and mid-size businesses that it says can help do everything from build a brand to take payments, has raised $125 million in Series D funding at a $1.875 billion valuation led by Andreessen Horowitz. Earlier backers backers DST Global, 01 Advisors, Dragoneer Investment Group and Franklin Templeton also joined the round, along with new investor Mubadala Investment Company. The company has now raised $328 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Uptycs, a five-year-old, Waltham, Ma.-based security analytics platform, ha raised $50 million in Series C funding. Norwest Venture Partners led the round, joined by Sapphire Ventures and ServiceNow Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Venn, a six-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y- and Tel Aviv, Israel-based neighborhood engagement company, has raised $60 million in Series B funding. Group 11 led the round, joined by MIGDAL, Pitango, Helmsley Charitable Trust, and Bridges Israel. More here.

Wiz, a year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based cybersecurity startup, has raised $120 million. Salesforce and Blackstone led the round. According to the outlet Calcalist, the investment included a significant secondary element, with the company's first investor, Gili Raanan of Cyberstarts, selling half of his holdings and making a 22x return after just one year. This was also the first investment Blackstone has made in an Israeli company since it opened its Israel office earlier this year headed by Yifat Oron. More here.
 
Yalo, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based customer engagement software maker for commerce companies, raised $50 million in Series C funding led by earlier backer B Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
 
7shifts, a seven-year-old, Saskatchewan, Canada-based employee-scheduling platform for restaurants, raised $21.5 million in Series B funding. Enlightened Hospitality Investments led the round, joined by Ten Coves Capital, Relay Ventures, and Conexus Venture Capital. More here.
 
BrightHire, a two-year-old, New York-based startup that makes software for recruiting teams, has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding led by Index Ventures, with participation from Next Play Ventures, Flybridge Capital, and Ground Up Ventures. More here.
 
Canvas, a 3.5-year-old, L.A.-based diversity-focused recruiting platform, has raised $20 million in funding led by investor Lachy Groom and Sequoia Capital, with participation from Four Rivers Capital. The company was formerly known as Jumpstart. TechCrunch has more here.

Commerce Layer, a four-year-old, Prato, Italy-based commerce API company, has raised $16 million in Series B funding. Coatue Management led the round, joined by earlier backers Benchmark and Mango Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Engine Biosciences, a five-year-old, Singapore-based drug discovery-focused bioinformatics firm, has raised $43 million in funding led by Polaris Partners, with participation by newcomers Invus and a long list of earlier investors. TechCrunch has more here.

Epsor, a four-year-old, Paris-based company specialized in employee and retirement savings plans, raised €20 million ($25 million) in Series B funding led by Gaia Capital Partners. Tech.eu has more here.

Infinitum Electric, a five-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based electric vehicle motor maker, has raised $40 million in Series C funding. Energy Innovation Capital led the round, joined by Cottonwood Technology Fund, Chevron Technology Ventures, and Ajax Strategies. Austin-American Statesman has more here.
 
Ledn, a three-year-old, Toronto-based digital asset platform offering saving and lending products for digital assets, has raised $30 million in Series A funding led by Kingsway Capital, with participation from Susquehanna Private Equity InvestmentsParaFi Capital, and Alexis Ohanian, among others. Earlier backers White Star CapitalCoinbase VenturesGlobal Founders Capital and CMT Digital also participated. More here.
 
Lightrun, a two-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup that helps developers debug their live production code, has raised $23 million in Series A funding led by Insight Partners, with participation from Glilot Capital Partners, among others. TechCrunch has more here.

Material Security, a four-year-old, Redwood City, Ca.-based startup that says it protects email accounts even after they're compromised or harmful messages get through, has raised $40 million in Series B funding. Elad Gil led the round, joined by individual tech investors. More here.
 
Oliver Space, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based home furnishing startup, has raised $13 million in Series A funding. U.S. Venture Partners led the round, joined by Mayfield, Abstract VC, Expa Capital, and Burst Capital. Crunchbase News has more here.

Prismic, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based website editing platform, has raised $20 million in funding co-led by Aglaé Ventures and Eurazeo. More here.

Tractive, an eight-year-old, Austria-based maker of a GPS device for tracking dogs and cats, has raised $35 million in funding led by Guidepost Growth Equity. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Rewatch, a 15-month-old, San Francisco-based startup that indexes, transcribes and stores video content, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. Other investors in the round include Haystack and Upside Partnership. TechCrunch has more here.

Sharebite, a six-year-old, New York-based corporate catering startup, has raised $15 million in Series A funding. Lafayette Square led the round. The Spoon has more here.
 
Smaller Fundings
 
Datacy, a three-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based consumer data transparency startup, raised $2.4 million in seed funding, including from Redhawk VC, Golden Seeds, and the Female Founders Alliance, among others. More here.
 
Emile, a year-old, L.A.-based maker of on-demand courses for high-school students, has raised $5.3 million in seed funding led by Kleiner Perkins. Other investors in the round include Owl Ventures, Hannah Grey VC, Supernode Ventures, SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund, and Uber Alumni Syndicate. TechCrunch has more here.

Evertas, a four-year-old, Chicago-based insurance company that says it helps companies reduce their exposure to cryptoasset related risk, has raised roughly $5.8 million in seed funding from Morgan Creek Digital, CMT, and HashKey, among others. The company was formerly known as BlockRe. Insurance Journal has more here.

Flume Health, a four-year-old, New York-based health plan administration platform, has raised $6 million in funding led by Crosslink Capital, with participation from Route 66 Ventures, Accomplice, Founder Collective and Primary Venture Partners, among others. MedCity News has more here.
 
Kinema, a 17-month-old, New York City-based social cinema platform, has raised $2 million in seed funding, including from Kindred Ventures, Lupa Systems, Galaxy Interactive and I2BF Global Ventures. The Hollywood Reporter has more here.
 
Meme.com, a month-old, Sweden-based platform dedicated to meme markets and trend exploration (users are invited to "collect trends, sponsor new memes and earn rewards for supporting your favorite memes"), has raised $5 million from more than a dozen investors, including Outlier Ventures, Digital Finance Group (DFG), Morningstar, Blockhype, and Spark Digital Capital. More here.

Reclaim.ai, a two-year-old, Portland, Ore.-based calendar assistant and time management platform, has raised $4.8 million in seed funding. Index Ventures led the round, joined by Gradient Ventures, Flying Fish, Operator Partners, and Calendly. GeekWire has more here.
 
Tiv, a year-old, Chicago-based gaming-focused payments platform, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding led by 4490 Ventures, with participation from Silverton Partners and numerous individual investors. Crunchbase News has more here.
 
Treet, an 11-month-old, San Francisco-based startup that helps brands set up their own resale sites, has raised $2.8 million in seed funding. The capital comes from Bling Capital, Matchstick Ventures, Techstars, BAM Ventures, BBG Ventures, Green Meadow, Interlace Ventures, V1.VC and Alante Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
New Funds
 
OpenAI, the now six-year-old, San Francisco-based AI company, is launching a $100 million startup fund, which it calls the OpenAI Startup Fund, through which it and its partners will invest in early-stage AI companies tackling major problems (and productivity). Among those partners and investors in the fund is Microsoft, an investor in the company and at whose Build conference OpenAI cofounder and CEO Sam Altman announced the news. In a prerecorded video, Altman explained that “this is not a typical corporate venture fund. We plan to make big early bets on a relatively small number of companies, probably not more than 10.” TechCrunch has more here.
 
PayPal says it it has invested another $50 million in Black and Latinx-led venture capital funds, doubling a commitment that it initiated last fall. The recipients of fresh capital commitments from the company include  Aperture Venture Capital; Collab Capital; Interlace Ventures; Kapor Capital; MaC Venture Capital; Noemis Ventures; Seae Ventures; SV LATAM Capital; and three additional funds. More here.
Exits
 
KKR is buying a majority stake in Therapy Brands, a behavioral-health software maker, for about $1.2 billion, including debt in the private equity firm’s latest deal in the sector, according to Bloomberg. KKR is purchasing the company from investors including Lightyear Capital, Oak HC/FT and Greater Sum Venture, while earlier investor PSG will continue to be a minority shareholder in Therapy Brands and will participate in the takeover alongside KKR, the companies said in the statement. More here.
Going Public
 
Endeavor is going public on the New York Stock Exchange tomorrow. The company's assets include the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the marketing firm IMG as well as the Hollywood talent agency WME. This is Endeavor’s second go-round at an IPO following a botched attempt in the fall of 2019. The Wrap has more here.
 
The 11-year-old, Boston-based digital payments company Flywire made its public market debut today on the Nasdaq exchange after raising $250 million in an IPO. Flywire’s stock ended its first day of trading up more than 46% to close at $35.10, and its valuation is north of $3 billion. The Boston Globe has more here.
 
Another mobility company is getting SPAC'd. This time, it’s Tritium, a 20-year-old, Brisbane, Australia-based developer and producer of direct current fast EV chargers that is taking the SPAC path to the public market in a deal valuing the company at $1.2 billion. TechCrunch has more here.
People
 
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will step down on July 5, turning the helm over to cloud-computing boss Andy Jassy. “We chose that date because it’s sentimental for me, the day Amazon was incorporated in 1994, exactly 27 years ago,” Bezos said today at Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting, which was held virtually. CNBC has more here.
 
A former Microsoft board member, Maria Klawe, tells Business Insider that she was elbowed out as a director after interviewing CEO Satya Nadella in 2014 at a prominent conference for women in tech where Nadella said that women should rely on “faith” in the system and “good karma” to obtain pay raises -- and Klawe received cheers when she said that women should instead do their research and negotiate for raises. Klawe, who has been the president of Harvey Mudd College since 2006, says that soon after the event, Microsoft chairman John Thompson asked her to step down from the board; she also says the company announced she decided not to seek re-election after six years on the board.
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Essential Reads
 
A culture of fear at the firm that manages Bill Gates's fortune.
 
Facebook says it will begin doling out harsher punishments for individual accounts that repeatedly share false or misleading posts. Under the new system, Facebook will “reduce the distribution of all posts” from people who routinely share misinformation, making it harder for their content to be seen by others on the service. Bloomberg has more here.
Detours
 
Johnny Knoxville's last rodeo.
 
The "talking" dog of TikTok.
 
Retail Therapy
 
So you get the car and the NFT.
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