Apple employees speak out, Lowercarbon kicks into high gear, and how Ryan Cohen took over GameStop

August 12, 2021
Top News
 
The FDA today authorized third doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines for some people with weakened immune systems. About 3% of Americans have weakened immune systems for a variety of reasons, from a history of cancer to the use of certain medications such as steroids, says the New York Times.
 
Airbnb’s stock today fell more than 4% after it reported its second-quarter earnings. The company beat Wall Street’s expectations for revenue and bookings but warned about expected volatility from the Covid delta variant. DoorDash similarly said today that its gross order volume and total orders hit new records in the second quarter as demand for delivery remained strong even as in-restaurant dining resumed, though it forecasted a drop-off in the third quarter. More here.
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Lowercarbon Capital Has Raised $800 Million Across Four Funds to "Keep Unf*cking the Planet"
 
Lowercarbon Capital, a climate-tech focused fund founded by longtime investor Chris Sacca and his wife Crystal Sacca, has closed on $800 million in capital, Sacca announced today in a post on the firm’s site.
 
According to Sacca, the commitments came exceedingly fast — in “just a few days.” Writes Sacca: “It turns out that raising for a climate fund in the context of an unprecedented heatwave and from behind the thick clouds of fire smoke probably didn’t hurt. In fact, all that pollution may have lent a warm, beautifying haze to our Zoom calls. Like an Incendiary Doom Glow Insta filter.”
 
The interest is far from surprising given the mounting and rather stark evidence that life as humans know it is in peril, owing to rising temperatures. On the heels of a deadly floods in Western Germany and China, wildfires in Greece and California, and ahead of yet another heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, a new report released Monday by the United Nations’ climate science research group was clear about the current state of affairs, declaring a “code red for humanity.”
 
Certainly, some of Lowercarbon’s backers are interested in tech that’s working to reverse some of these trends. But as Sacca notes, if they’re purely focused on the financial rewards that climate-focused tech can reap, that’s fine, too.
“We are thrilled to see how many investors understand the urgency of the climate crisis and are already dedicating their time, as well as their capital, to real solutions,” he says in his post. “However, to be frank, we were also heartened by those investors who actually don’t care that much about the planet and instead are just chasing financial returns.”
 
Lowercarbon’s very thesis is that “massive change will happen because these types of investments will pay off for sheer business reasons alone,” he adds.
 
In addition to the Saccas, Lowercarbon is being run by Clay Dumas, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based partner who the firm describes as its most active investor. Though the Harvard grad hasn’t been in the venture world long — first joining up with Sacca in 2017 to join his earlier firm Lowercase Capital as a partner — he understands the world of politics in a way that few, more “traditional” VCs, might.
 
Massive Fundings
 
Emeritus, a six-year-old, Singapore-based online education platform that's used by universities and other educational institutions to offer online courses, has raised $650 million at a valuation of $3.2 billion led by Accel and SoftBank Vision Fund 2. Reuters has more here.
 
Reddit, the 16-year-old, San Francisco-based online bulletin board and forum, has raised $410 million in Series F funding at a valuation of more than $10 billion led by Fidelity, which made the company an offer it couldn't refuse. (The company's valuation was $6 billion as of six months ago.) Cofounder and CEO Steve Huffman tells the New York Times that Reddit expects to close out the round with closer to $700 million, taking into account participation from earlier backers. The company has raised, we think, $1.6 billion from private investors to date. More here.
 
Talkdesk, a 10-year-old, Lisbon, Portugal-based cloud contact center software company, has raised $230 million in Series D funding at a $10 billion valuation from Whale Rock Capital Management, TI Platform Management, Alpha Square Group, Amity Ventures, Franklin Templeton, Top Tier Capital Partners, Viking Global Investors, and Willoughby Capital. The company has now raised $498 million since inception. TechCrunch has more here
 
TaxBit, a 2,5-year-old, Salt Lake City, Ut.-based company whose tax and accounting software was developed with crypto investors in mind -- it connects digital asset transactions across exchanges so individuals and enterprises can more accurately file their taxes, manage their portfolios and make tax-optimized trades through its platform, has raised $130 million in Series B funding. IVP and Insight Partners co-led the round, joined by Tiger Global, Paradigm, 9Yards Capital, Sapphire Ventures, Madrona Venture Group, and Anthony Pompliano. The company has now raised $230 million altogether and is valued by its investors at $1.33 billion. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Upgrade, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based consumer credit startup cofounded by LendingClub founder Renaud Laplanche, has raised $105 million in Series E funding at a $3.325 billion pre-money valuation led by Koch Disruptive Technologies, with participation from BRV and Ventura Capital. Bloomberg has more here.
 
VerSe Innovation, a 14-year-old, Bangalore, India-based parent firm of popular news aggregator Dailyhunt and short video app Josh, has raised more than $450 million in new funding, just five months after raising $200 million from investors. Backers in the lates round include Siguler Guff, Baillie Gifford, affiliates of Carlyle Asia Partners Growth II, Sofina Group, Qatar Investment Authority and BCap. TechCrunch has more here.
 
XtalPi, a seven-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based AI drug R&D company that uses computational physics, quantum chemistry, and cloud computing to aid pharmaceutical companies in their drug development, has raised $400 million in Series D funding led by OrbiMed and RRJ, with investors including Sequoia Capital, Sino Biopharmecutical, and 5Y Capital participating in the deal. KrAsia has more here.
 
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
 
Aaalto, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based online marketplace that lets homeowners sell directly to buyers, has raised $13 million in fresh funding led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from Background Capital, Defy Partners, Maple VC and entrepreneur-investor Greg Waldorf. The company has now raised $17.3 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Agora, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that has built a materials management platform for contractors, just $33 million in Series B funding led by Tiger Global, with participation from 8VC, Tishman Speyer, Jerry Yang, Michael Ovitz, DST, LeFrak, and serial entrepreneur and investor Kevin Hartz. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Parcel Perform, an eight-year-old, Singapore-headquartered company that connects merchants with e-commerce carriers and provides shipment tracking features, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Cambridge Capital. SoftBank Ventures Asia, Wavemaker Partners and Investible also joined the round. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Small Fundings
 
Aviron, a 2.5-year-old, Toronto-area-based startup that makes a connected home rowing machine, just raised $4.5 million in funding from Samsung Next, Formic Ventures, GFC and Y Combinator. TechCrunch has more here.

Esper, a three-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based govtech startup whose cloud-based software aims to help government evaluate and manage public policy (Joe Lonsdale is a cofofunder), has raised $8 million in Series A funding. Cota Capital led the round, joined by 8VC, Gaingels, and Stand Together Ventures Lab. More here.
 
Everstage, a year-old, Wilmington, De.- and Chennai, India-based sales commission automation platform, has raised $1.7 million in seed funding led by 3One4 Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Mirthy, a 2.5-year-old, London-based activity and social platform for people over age 60, has raised $1.1 million in pre-seed funding led by Ascension Ventures, with Ada Ventures, Redrice Ventures and True also participating. TechCrunch has more here.
 
Smashcut, a four-year-old, Montclair, N.J.-based startup that partners with universities and organizations to develop and deliver customized online programs, raised $7 million in Series A funding from Pearson Ventures. More here.
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New Funds
 
Sageview Capital, a 16-year-old, Greenwich, Ct. and Palo Alto, Ca.-based tech growth equity firm, has raised $710 million for its third flagship fund. Members of Sageview’s team provided the largest single investment in the fund, contributing about 22% of the total, cofounder Scott Stuart tells the WSJ. More here.
Exits
 
U.K. antitrust officials said they could call on Facebook to unwind its acquisition of GIF purveyor Giphy, after provisionally finding that the deal would harm competition between social-media platforms and in the display advertising market. Facebook bought Giphy last year. The WSJ has more here.
Going Public
 
Brazilian digital bank Nubank, which has a multimillion-dollar investment from legendary investor Warren Buffett's company, is planning an initial public offering of more than $2 billion in the US stock market, according to Bloomberg. The eight-year-old, Sao Paulo-based fintech is aiming to launch its IPO on Nasdaq by the end of this year and it may seek a valuation of more than $40 billion, says the outlet. More here.
People
 
Bill Gates told the WSJ today that his climate investment fund will commit $1.5 billion over three years for joint projects with the U.S. government if Congress enacts a program aimed at developing technologies that lower carbon emissions. The roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate this week would give the Energy Department $25 billion for demonstration projects funded through public-private partnerships, part of more than $100 billion to address climate change. The House hasn’t yet approved the legislation. More here.
Data
 
Five takeaways from a groundbreaking census report.
Essential Reads
 
A backlash over Apple's move to scan U.S. customer phones and computers for child sex abuse images has grown to include employees speaking out internally. Reuters has more here.
 
Over 100 Amazon delivery companies are banding together to form a new kind of challenger to UPS and FedEx. The coalition is called Frontdoor Collective, and each franchisee will have the opportunity to obtain equity in the company, reports Business Insider. More here
 
The prescience of Philip Agre.
Detours
 
What we think about metabolism may be wrong.
 
How outsider Ryan Cohen wrested control of GameStop.
 
Retail Therapy
 
Soho House Austin.
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