Rivian is going public, Bill Gurley discovers Ethereum, and China is reportedly weighing another new ban

August 27, 2021
Friday! Could you love Fridays more than we do? You might! 
Before we go, we recorded a new StrictlyVC Download a little bit ago, and if you're down for a quick recap of some of the week's stories, including what's happening with the recall election in California, this one is for you. Our special guest this week is Neil Malhotra, a professor of political economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business who has conducted research into the so-called tech elite and what they really want out of government (and why some want Governor Gavin Newsom out of office, even if the alternative is a giant question mark). We hope you enjoy it.
Thanks to Tegus for sponsoring this week's episode. Need a deep understanding of a certain business within hours? Check out its platform for thousands of transcripts of conversations between industry experts and public market investors, or sign up for a one-on-one interview with someone in the know. More here, and more Monday.:)
Top News
China plans to propose new rules that would ban companies with large amounts of sensitive consumer data from going public in the U.S., says the WSJ, which is presumably a lot of tech firms that would otherwise look to list abroad.
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Andreessen Horowitz Just Rolled Out a $400 Million Fund That's Expressly for Seed Deals
Andreessen Horowitz has begun to announce new funds almost as routinely as some startups have begun announcing follow-on rounds. After announcing a third biotech fund in February 2020 that’s currently investing $750 million, a pair of new funds totaling $4.5 billion last November and, most recently, a new $2.2 billion crypto-focused fund, the firm is rolling out a brand new fund: a $400 million vehicle that is focused expressly on backing seed-stage companies.
In the broader historical context of the firm, it’s an interesting development. Many years ago, Andreessen Horowitz walked away from writing seed checks to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest — even while the firm didn’t have a conflict policy around nascent deals. As Marc Andreessen explained it to us in 2013, there is often too much uncertainty at the earliest stages of company formation, and though the firm conveyed this thinking to founders, they didn’t always listen, and bets that evolved to be similar made them feel bad and caused problems.
Of course, things changed over time, competition is competition and, before long, the firm was again writing checks to very young startups. In fact, today, not only have seed-stage investments again become very much part of the program, but since the beginning of 2020, about half the firm’s investments have been in seed companies, according to a16z. Indeed, General Partner Martin Casado said yesterday that the new fund is largely about optimizing its processes around seed deals, and ensuring investors are rewarded properly for the associated risk. Here’s some of that conversation, edited lightly for length.
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
Bright, a year-old, San Francisco-based a live video platform that lets fans engage in live conversations with their favorite creators and celebs, has raised $15 million co-led by Sound Ventures, RIT Capital and Regah Ventures. Other backers in the round include Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures, Globo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Shawn Mendes and manager Andrew Gertler’s AG Ventures, as well as Jeff Lawson, CEO and co-founder of Twilio. The company was co-founded by Madonna and talent manager Guy Oseary, along with early YouTube product manager Michael Powers. TechCrunch has more here.

Indiagold, a year-old, Gurgaon, India-based gold-focused digital credit platform, has raised $12 million in Series A funding. PayU and Alpha Wave Incubation co-led the round, joined by Better Tomorrow Ventures, 3one4 Capital, Rainmatter Capital and earlier investor Leo Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
Moment House, a two-year-old, L.A.-based virtual concert venue that has hosted artists ranging from Justin Bieber to Tame Impala, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Forerunner Ventures. Billboard has more here.
Monad, a 16-month-old, San Francisco-based cloud data security startup, has raised $17 million in Series A funding from Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures. (Cofounder and CEO Christian Almenar sold his last cybersecurity to VMWare in 2019.) TechCrunch has more here.
Overjet, a three-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based developer of X-ray AI for dental clinics, raised $27 million in Series A funding co-led by General Catalyst and Insight Partners, with added participation from E14 Fund. FierceBiotech has more here.
Royal, a months-old, Las Vegas-based music rights platform focused on NFTs, raised $16 million in seed funding. Founders Fund and Paradigm co-led the round, joined by Atomic, where co-founder JD Ross was recently a general partner. As TechCrunch explains it, Royal aims to wed music rights with NFTs, allowing users to buy shares of songs through the company’s marketplace, earning royalties as the music they’ve invested in gains popularity. More here.

Workera.ai, a 1.5-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca.-based upskilling platform for both technical and non-technical roles (but tech related), has raised $16 million in Series A funding. NEA led the round, joined by Owl Ventures and AI Fund. TechCrunch has more here.
Workstream, a 3.5-year-old, San Francisco-based hourly worker hiring and onboarding platform, has raised $48 million in Series B funding co-led by Bond and Coatue. Other backers in the round include Founders Fund, Basis Set Ventures, CRV, Peterson Ventures, GGV Capital, RocNation and Dreamers VC. TechCrunch has more here.
Zeal, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based payroll infrastructure startup that helps other platforms embed payroll functions into their product, raised $13 million in Series A funding led by Spark Capital, with participation from Commerce Ventures. TechCrunch has more here.
Smaller Fundings
Firemaps, a months-old, San Francisco-based startup that uses satellites and drones to determine if a homeowner's property is in a high-risk fire zone, then shoots out bids to trade contractors on its platform to address potential issues, has raised $5.5 million in seed funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. TechCrunch has more here.
LOVO, a nearly two-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based developer of AI voice and synthetic speech tools, has raised $4.5 million in seed funding from Kakao Entertainment, Kakao Investment and LG CNS. TechCrunch has more here.
Sastrify, a year-old, Cologne, Germany-based SaaS management startup that helps their customers manage contract renewals, obtain software price benchmarks and provides support for important negotiations, has raised $7 million in seed funding. Backers include HV Capital and the founders of FlixMobility, Personio and SumUp. The company had previously raised $1.3 million in pre-seed funding last year. TechCrunch has more here.
Stonehenge Technology Labs, a two-year-old, Arkansas-based startup that says it helps consumer packaged goods companies gain meaningful use from all of the data they collect, has raised $2 million in seed funding. Irish Angels led the round, joined by Bread and Butter Ventures, Gaingels, Angeles Investors, Bonfire Ventures and Red Tail Venture Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
Synder, a nearly four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that bills itself as an easy accounting platform for e-commerce businesses, has raised $2 million in seed funding from TMT Investments. TechCrunch has more here.
Tuna, a two-year-old, Uruguay-based e-commerce payments startup focused on Latin America, has raised $3 million in seed funding co-led by Canary and Atlantico. TechCrunch has more here.
Sponsored By ...
SaaStr, the world's largest non-vendor B2B software community, is back - in person! Don't miss this year's Annual on Sept 27-29 at the San Mateo County Event Center. The three-day conference will bring together more than 10,000 global SaaS founders, executives, and venture capitalists for a series of high-quality content sessions and networking opportunities. Across five stages more than 300 SaaS leaders will share their hard-earned learnings and actionable insights to help you scale up and grow your company faster. Readers can grab 20% off tickets with code StrictlyVC. 
New Funds
Sequoia Capital just filed a bunch of paperwork with the SEC, including around a $1 billion India-focused annex fund and a $1 billion China-focused annex fund.
Looks like TCG, the investment firm founded by Peter Chernin and Goldman Sachs veteran Jesse Jacobs, is raising a dedicated crypto fund based on two new filings. Here's one and here's the other. Neither list a target. More here.
Walden International, a VC firm founded in 1987 by longtime exec (and current CEO of Cadence Design Systems) Lip-Bu Tan, is raising $150 million for a new fund, per an SEC filing flagged by Axios. More here.
Customer service platform provider Zendesk today announced it has acquired Cleverly.ai, a Lisbon, Portugal-based platform that finds answers to customer’s questions by creating a knowledge layer on top of apps. Zendesk says it will integrate Cleverly’s technology across its existing products, enabling teams to automate more processes while keeping up with customer demand. VentureBeat has more here.
Going Public
Rivian, the 11-year-old, Plymouth, Mi.-based electric vehicle startup backed by a host of institutional and strategic investors, including Ford and Amazon, has confidentially filed paperwork with the SEC to go public. The electric automaker, which now employs 7,000 people and has already raised roughly $10.5 billion from investors, is preparing to deliver its R1T pickup truck in September. It's the company's first offering. TechCrunch has more here.
Freshworks, an 11-year-old, San Mateo, Ca.-based business and customer engagement software company, today made public its filing for a U.S. IPO, reporting a nearly 53% surge in revenue as more customers signed up for its services. More here and here.
Early Uber investor Bill Gurley tells Bloomberg he has taken a "personal position" in Ethereum. Gurley admitted he was “kinda late” to the world of crypto and “didn’t spend a lot of time" thinking about it until April, but he has since spent “quite a bit of time listening and reading” and in the process developed a keen interest in Ethereum. Decrypt has more here.
The lawyers of Elizabeth Holmes haven’t disclosed whether jurors will hear directly from her in coming criminal fraud trial. Doing so carries risks, defense lawyers tell the WSJ, but they say it's lso often the best opportunity to create sympathy with jurors.
Trae Vassallo has left the venture firm she cofounded in 2016, Defy VC, to join Apple in an operating role. Vassallo, who was previously an investor with Kleiner Perkins, says in a Medium post that she passed up an opportunity to work with Apple's iPod team in 2003 in order to join Kleiner, and suggested it's time to switch things up after 18 years as a VC. Vassallo launched Defy with former General Catalyst investor Neil Sequeira. More here.
Essential Reads
Tesla wants to sell electricity in Texas.
Amazon is getting into the buy-now-pay-later space by partnering with Max Levchin's Affirm to offer customers installment payments for the first time. 
Peloton says both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice have subpoenaed the company for information on its reporting of injuries related to its products. The said the SEC is also investigating its public disclosures over these issues.
The City of Chicago has filed two sweeping lawsuits against DoorDash and Grubhub for allegedly using unfair business practices and deceiving customers, including using a “bait-and-switch” method to attract customers with low delivery fees, only to charge additional ones when they are about to place their order.
Why San Francisco's city government is so dysfunctional.
What to say when someone asks why you don't have kids.
A 3D-printed steel bridge.
Sharon Horgan is back❤️
Retail Therapy
Hushme Classic will let you speak privately and quietly anywhere you want! (Note: this is a real, if very dumb-looking, product.)
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