A remix gadget from Kanye, a founder in Uncle Sam's crosshairs, and OnlyFans to users: "never mind!"

August 25, 2021
Top News
President Joe Biden hosted that summit today with the private sector to discuss cybersecurity. “The federal government can’t meet this challenge alone,” he told those gathered, including Tim Cook, Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, and Jamie Dimon. “I’ve invited you all here because you have the power, the capacity, and the responsibility, I believe, to raise the bar on cybersecurity," which he called "the core national security challenge." More here.
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The DOJ and SEC Just Charged This Startup Founder with Fraud, Saying He Lied to Tiger Global and Others
Today, both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Manish Lachwani, cofounder of a mobile app testing company Headspin, with fraud. The SEC says he violated antifraud provisions and the civil penalties it’s seeking include a permanent injunction, a conduct-based injunction, and to bar him for serving as a corporate executive or board member.
The DOJ, which arrested Lachwani earlier, has accused him of one count of wire fraud and one count of securities fraud, and the associated penalties if he’s found guilty are are more harsh, including, for wire fraud, a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. If he’s found guilty of securities fraud, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $5,000,000.
Both the the SEC and the DOJ say Lachwani — who led the six-year-old company as CEO until May of last year — defrauded investors out of $80 million by falsely claiming that his company, Headspin, had “achieved strong and consistent growth in acquiring customers and generating revenue” when he was pitching its Series C round to potential backers.
By the SEC’s telling, his fabrications were designed to help secure the round at a so-called unicorn valuation. That apparent plan worked, too, with Palo Alto-based Headspin attracting coverage in Forbes in February of last year after Dell Technologies Capital, Iconiq Capital and Tiger Global provided the company with $60 million in Series C funding at a $1.16 billion valuation. Forbes reported at the time that the valuation was double the valuation investors  assigned HeadSpin when it closed its Series B round in October 2018.
Massive Fundings
Calibrate, a New York-based weight management platform, has raised $100 million in Series B funding co-led by Founders Fund and Tiger Global. Other investors in the deal include Optum Ventures and earlier backers Forerunner Ventures, Threshold Ventures and Redesign Health. Forbes has more here.
Cribl, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company that's developing an “open ecosystem of data” for enterprises using unified data pipelines called “observability pipelines" and inviting users to choose the analytics tools and storage destinations they prefer, has raised $200 million in Series C funding. Greylock and Redpoint Ventures co-led the round, joined by IVP, earlier investors Sequoia Capital and CRV, and strategic investors Citi Ventures and CrowdStrike. The company has now raised $254 million altogether and is valued by its backers at $1.5 billion. TechCrunch has more here.
Flink, a four-year-old, Mexico City-based neobroker aiming to help its users more easily manage their money, has raised $57 million in Series B funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. Earlier backers Accel, ALLVP, Clocktower and new investor Mantis Venture Capital also participated in the round, which brings the company's total funding to $70 million. TechCrunch has more here.
Form Energy, a four-year-old, Somerville, Ma.-based company that says it’s developing and scaling the production of a new type of rechargeable battery that can store electricity for 100 hours, has raised $240 million in Series D funding, including from earlier investor Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Form hasn’t publicly demonstrated its technology or shared proof that it works, notes CNBC, but the company has lined up more than $360 million in funding altogether. More here.
Jane Technologies, a six-year-old, Santa Cruz, Ca.-based "Shopify for cannabis" that's building the backend for some dispensaries with online offerings, has raised $100 million in Series C funding led by Honor Ventures, the new fund of operator-investor Jeff Housenbold. The company has now raised $130 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.
NoRedInk, a nine-year-old, San Francisco-based digital writing curriculum that says it aims to develop stronger writers through adaptive exercises and actionable data, has raised $50 million in Series B funding. Susquehanna Growth Equity led the round, joined by True Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
Trove Recommerce, a nine-year-old, Brisbane, Ca.-based company that helps brand to control the sale of their previously owned, new or used, products, has raised $77.5 million Series D funding led by G2 Venture Partners. Other participants in the round include Bank of Montreal, Capital One Ventures, Commerce Ventures, Wellington Management and earlier investors. The company has now raised $122.5 million altogether. Business of Fashion has more here.
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
Alethea AI, a two-year-old, Singapore-based software developer and non-fungible token creator, has raised $16 million through a private token sale for a metaverse project. Lead investors in the sale include NFT fund Metapurse and investment firm Crypto.com Capital, as well as billionaire investor Mark Cuban, Dapper Labs, BITKRAFT, Galaxy Interactive, Sfermion, and LD Capital. Decrypt has more here.
Balance, a 1.5-year-old, Tel Aviv, Israel-based B2B e-commerce payments platform, has raised $25 million in Series A funding led by Ribbit Capital. Other participants in the round include Avid Ventures and earlier backers Lightspeed Ventures, Stripe, Y Combinator Continuity Fund, SciFi VC and UpWest. TechCrunch has more here.
Bodo.ai, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based parallel compute platform for data workloads, has raised $14 million in Series A funding led by Dell Technologies Capital, with participation from Uncorrelated Ventures, Fusion Fund and Candou Ventures. The outside funding appears to be the company's first. TechCrunch has more here.
Coco, a 20-month-old, L.A.-based last-mile delivery robot startup that came out of UCLA and was formerly known as (less cuddly sounding) Cyan Robotics, has raised $36 million in Series A funding, including from Sam Altman, Silicon Valley Bank and Founders Fund. TechCrunch has more here.
Level AI, a three-year-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based  early-stage startup that, like so many other recently funded companies, wants to help companies process customer service calls faster, has raised  $13 million in Series A funding led by Battery Ventures. Earlier backers Eniac and Village Global also joined the round, which brings the company's total funding to $15 million. TechCrunch has more here.
MakersPlace, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based NFT digital art marketplace, has raised $30 million co-led by Bessemer Venture Partners and Pantera Capital. Other investors in the round include Uncork Capital, Draper Dragon Digital Assets, 9Yards Capital, Next Play Ventures, Coinbase Ventures and Sony Music Entertainment. VentureBeat has more here.
Smaller Fundings
Euler.xyz, a year-old, Oxford, England-based DeFi lending company, has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Paradigm. Seed stage investor Lemniscap also joined the round, along with numerous individual investors. The Block has more here.
Mindset, a months-old, L.A.-based audio platform featuring personal story collections from recording artists who want to share more of themselves with their fans, has raised $8.7 million in seed funding. Union Square Ventures led the round, joined by record executive Scooter Braun, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, and Opendoor cofounder and CEO Eric Wu, among others. TechCrunch has more here.
New Funds
Alpaca VC, the nearly decade-old, New York-based venture fund that was formerly known as Corigin Ventures and which backs seed- and pre-seed-stage companies, is looking to raise up to $100 million for its third fund, shows a new SEC filing. More here.
Prime Venture Partners, a 10-year-old, Bangalore, India-based, early-stage venture firm, has held a first close on its fourth fund with $75 million in capital commitments. (It expects to close the fund with $100 million, it says.) Prime closed its previous fund with $72 million in 2018, a second fund with $46 million in 2015 and it debut fund with $8 million in 2012. The outfit says it will continue to focus on fintech, edtech, health tech, consumer internet and SaaS startups, but that it's also beginning to make bets on decentralized finance, electric vehicle and gaming infrastructure platforms. More here.
Meditation app Headspace this morning announced plans to merge with on-demand mental health service, Ginger. Barring unforeseen regulatory roadblocks, the two companies will combine to form Headspace Health. The new organization would sport a combined value of $3 billion and a headcount of more than 800. TechCrunch has more here.
California-based fast casual salad chain Sweetgreen say it's acquiring Spyce. Founded in 2015, the Boston-based startup "started making waves a few years back as a spinout of MIT mechanical engineering students, first serving up food at the school’s dining hall," notes TechCrunch. Later, the opened a pair of automated restaurants in the Boston area, restaurants that will remain open for now. Sweetgreen plans to eventually incorporate Spyce’s technology into its restaurants. More here.
Going Public
Fifth Wall, the L.A.-based venture firm investing in property technology, climate technology and retail, has seen four of its portfolio companies list on the public markets in recent months. SmartRent.com, another portfolio company, began trading today after completing a merger with a blank-check company created by Fifth Wall itself. Four-year-old SmartRent helps property managers control all of the smart devices in their properties. The WSJ has more here.
Microsoft has hired Amazon cloud executive Charlie Bell as a corporate vice president, CNBC has confirmed. The move represents a victory for Microsoft, whose Azure cloud business is trying to take share from market-leading Amazon Web Services. CNBC has more here.
Joe Rogan, confined to Spotify, is losing influence.
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Essential Reads
OnlyFans says never mind, it actually won’t ban porn on October 1st.
Discord has won over gamers. Now it wants everybody else.
Facebook is reportedly considering forming an election commission to advise it on thorny election-related issues.
Brex, a startup that offers other startups high-limit charge cards and is valued by its backers at $7.4 billion, says it's now launching a venture debt business, too.
The baby is suing.
The real CEO of "Succession."
She wrote the history of "Jeopardy." Then she changed it.
Retail Therapy
The essential of the moment: shampoo bars.
A remix gadget from Kanye West.
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