More ransomware attacks, master classes on construction, and Facebook ends its hands-off approach to politicos

June 3, 2021
Top News
The Biden administration has replaced and expanded Trump-era restrictions on investing in certain Chinese firms deemed supportive of that country’s surveillance and military apparatus. Major tech, space and telecom companies are listed in the initial 59 covered by the executive order, with more to come by order of the Treasury. TechCrunch has more here.
Facebook plans to end a controversial policy that mostly shields politicians from the content moderation rules that apply to other users, a sharp reversal that could have global ramifications for how elected officials use the social network. The Verge has more here.
Live streams for radio and TV stations owned by the Cox Media Group, one of the largest media conglomerates in the US, went down earlier today in what Recorded Future, a security firm that tracks ransomeware attacks, says was an apparent ransomware attack. The incident took place earlier this morning and impacted the internal networks and live streaming capabilities for Cox media properties, such as web streams and mobile apps. Official websites, telephone lines, and normal programming remained running but some live programming could not go on air as scheduled. More here.
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Copeland, Which Offers Stylized Classes Online About Skilled Trades, Builds Momentum
Trade schools are nothing new, but a new startup called Copeland thinks it can build a big business by bringing education about plumbing, drywall, cabinetry and more to the masses through high-quality pre-filmed classes online that feature industry pros and professional educators.
If it sounds like a kind of MasterClass for all things construction, that’s not an accident. Copeland sprung from the mind of renowned investor Michael Dearing, who wrote the first check to MasterClass (now reportedly valued at $2.5 billion) and spied an opportunity in pairing underemployed Americans with homebuilders who can’t find enough people to hire. Meanwhile, Copeland’s cofounder and CEO, Gabe Jewell, previously spent nearly four years as a creative producer with MasterClass.
Of course, in addition to trade schools, Copeland, which charges for its content, is competing with an endless — and free — number of YouTube videos about how to both build and dismantle things. Still, the year-old, six-person, Bay Area-based company, which has produced nine different classes so far, has investors excited about its prospects.
Massive Fundings
FarEye, an eight-year-old, New Delhi, India-based end-to-end, global delivery management platform, has raised $100 million in Series E funding led by TCV and Dragoneer Investment Group. Earlier investors Eight Roads Ventures, Fundamentum and Honeywell also participated in the round. Transport & Logistics has more here.
Flash Group, a four-year-old, Bangkok, Thailand-based logistics startup, has raised $150 million at a post-money valuation of more than $1 billion, making it the country's first so-called unicorn. Bank of Ayudhya is among its new investors, along with Siam Commercial Bank’s venture arm, Chanvanich Security Printing, Buer Capital, and numerous earlier backers. Reuters has more here.
Flipkart, the 14-year-old, Bengaluru, India-based e-commerce giant, is reportedly in talks to raise a $2 billion round, upwards of $700 million of which could come from SoftBank Vision Fund (which sold its early stake in the business to Walmart). Other investors kicking the tires, according to the Economic Times, includes sovereign wealth funds such as Abu Dhabi’s ADQ and Canada’s CPPIB, and earlier investors such as GIC and Qatar Investment Authority. The ET says the transaction would likely Flipkart at between $25 billion and $30 billion and could postpone the company's plans for a U.S. IPO. More here.
Gong, a nearly six-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based revenue intelligence startup, has raised $250 million in fresh funding at a post-money valuation of $7.25 billion valuation, a number that triples its previous valuation from last summer. (Are you seeing a theme here?) Franklin Templeton led the new round, joined by Coatue, Salesforce Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Thrive Capital and Tiger Global. The company has now raised $584 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
LeoLabs, a five-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based startup focused on satellite monitoring and collision detection, has raised $65 million Series B financing round, jointly led by Insight Partners and Velvet Sea Ventures. This latest round brings the company’s total funding to more than $100 million. TechCrunch has more here.
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
BeReal, a year-old, Paris-based social media platform that randomly invites everyone is a user's network to capture and share a photo with two minutes, has raised $30 million in Series A funding at a post-money valuation of roughly $150 million, reports journalist Eric Newcomer. He says the round, co-led by Andreessen Horowitz and Accel's London team, follows on the heels of a seed round led by European investors New Wave and Kima Ventures. More here.
New Stand, a six-year-old, New York-based company creating modern convenience stores, both that stand alone and can be tucked into offices, has raised $40 million in a Series B funding round led by Brookfield Property Group. Earlier backers Maywic, Fantail Ventures and Raga Partners also joined the financing, which brings the company’s total raised to just over $56 million. TechCrunch has more here.
One Concern, a six-year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based company selling resilience as a service -- it models and simulates community resilience and response to earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters -- has raised $45 million from SOMPO Holdings, the holding company of Japan’s SOMPO, one of the country’s largest insurers. TechCrunch has more here.
Realtime Robotics, a five-year-old, Boston-based company that has invented a specialized processor for generating safe robot motion plans, has raised $31.4 million in Series A funding (that it is tacking on to $11.7 million in funding it raised back in late 2019). Investors include HAHN Automation, SAIC Capital Management, Soundproof Ventures, Heroic Ventures, SPARX Asset Management, Omron Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures, Scrum Ventures and Duke Angels. TechCrunch has more here.
Smaller Fundings
Ganaz, a four-year-old, Seattle-based workforce management platform for agriculture workers, has raised $7 million in Series funding led by Trilogy Equity Partners, with participation from Bessemer Venture Partners, Founders’ Co-op, Taylor Ventures, AgFunder and Techstars. TechCrunch has more here.
NUE Life Health, a six-month-old, Miami, Fla.-based telemedicine startup focused on mental wellness (including involving psychedelic-assisted therapies), has raised $3.3 million in seed funding from a who's who of Miami-based investors, including Atomic founder Jack Abraham and Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer. TechCrunch has more here.
Simplified, a nine-month-old, Bay Area-based maker of marketing-focused design software, has raised $2.2 million in seed funding led by Craft Ventures, with participation from a whole slew of other individuals and funds, including Form Capital and GFR Fund. TechCrunch has more here.
HiHo, a year-old, Manhattan Beach, Ca.-based video conversation app built by JibJab co-creator Gregg Spiridellis, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding from Moxxie VenturesResolute Ventures, and Polaris Founders Capital, along with four other entities, per Pitchbook. (H/T: Eric Newcomer).
New Funds
Architect Capital, an 11-month-old, San Francisco-based firm, says it is launching with more than $100 million in funds to serve as an “asset-based lender” to “high-growth,” early-stage tech companies. Specifically, it aims to provide non-dilutive or less-dilutive financing options to asset-rich fintech, e-commerce and SaaS companies in the U.S. and Latin America, with an emphasis on the latter, it tells TechCrunch. More here.
Lux Capital, the 21-year-old, Boston- and Menlo Park-based venture firm known investing in so-called frontier tech, has raised $1.5 billion across two new funds. We talked with cofounder Peter Hebert about the new capital and broader market frothiness right here.
Toyota AI Ventures, Toyota’s standalone venture capital fund, has dropped the “AI” in favor of Toyota Ventures. The fund is commemorating its new identity by investing an additional $300 million in emerging technologies and carbon neutrality via two early-stage funds: the Toyota Ventures Frontier Fund and the Toyota Ventures Climate Fund. TechCrunch has more here.
VenBio, a 10-year-old, San Francisco-based venture capital firm, has raised another $550 million for life sciences investing, adding to a record amount of cash that's been aimed at young biotechnology companies over the last few years. The new fund is the firm's fourth. BioPharma Dive has more here.
The PE firm Blackstone announced today that has acquired media and data company IDG for $1.3 billion. The company had been owned by Oriental Rainbow, a subsidiary of China Oceanwide Holdings Group. With IDG, Blackstone gets tech analyst firm IDC along with a collection of tech publications that includes CIO, Computerworld, InfoWorld, Macworld, Network World, PCWorld and Tech Hive. TechCrunch has more here.
Going Public
Hedge-fund billionaire William Ackman’s special-purpose acquisition company is nearing a deal with Universal Music Group that would value the world’s largest music business at about $40 billion, reports the WSJ. The deal would be the largest SPAC transaction on record, exceeding the roughly $35 billion that Singaporean ride-hailing company Grab was valued at in a similar deal recently, according to Dealogic. More here.
Ex-Apple design boss Jony Ive has recruited at least five former Apple colleagues to his new design firm, LoveFrom. The Information has more here.
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Tesla vehicle orders in China fell by nearly half in May compared to April, according to internal data, as the electric car pioneer grappled with public outcry and government criticism over its handling of consumer complaints. The Information has the story here.
SoftBank Vision Fund has invested $2 billion in India in 2021, out of the the $15-18 billion it has invested globally, Rajeev Misra, the controversial CEO of SoftBank Investment Advisors, tells the Economic Times in a new interview. Said Misra to the outlet: I believe, over the last four years, we are the largest tech investor in India and will continue to be that way.”
Essential Reads
TikTok just gave itself permission to collect biometric data on U.S. users, including "faceprints and voiceprints."
United Airlines is the first official U.S. customer for Boom Supersonic, a venture-backed company focused on making supersonic commercial flight a reality once again. United agreed to purchase 15 of the company's Overture aircraft, provided they meet United’s “safety, operating and sustainability requirements,” with the option to purchase an additional 35 after that. (Cofounder and CEO Blake Scholl joined us at a StrictlyVC event almost exactly two years ago, where he provided a window into the company's thinking around design, market size, and the second-order effects we might see if people start traveling to far-flung places a lot faster.) 
The life and death of your jeans.
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The speech heard around the world today.
Retail Therapy
The Ritz-Carlton Maldives.
An EV car that mines cryptocurrency. (They should have called it the Paradox.)
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