Apple backtracks, Lyft and Uber make a statement, and what to know about Loot -- the toast of the digital world right now

September 3, 2021
We ❤️long weekends; hope yours is relaxing and also *safe*. 
Before we go(!), we want to thank Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures for hanging out with us yesterday for StrictlyVC Download. We talked Bird, we talked Tiger Global, we talked changing VC economics (we talked calorie counting). We really enjoyed it; we hope you will, too.

Giant thanks to TechCrunch for sponsoring this week's episode. TechCrunch Disrupt is coming up, fully virtually, September 21-23. Come to see Brian Armstrong, Chris Sacca, Stewart Butterfield, Katie Haun, Melanie Perkins, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the SEC's Erin Schneider, Ryan Reynolds, Kirsten Green and many others. Stay for the community and expand your horizons and your network. Attend for less than $100; learn more at
More Tuesday.
Top News
Last month, Apple announced a handful of new child safety features that proved to be controversial, including CSAM detection for iCloud Photos. Now, Apple has said it will “take additional time” to refine the features before launching to the public.
Lyft and Uber said today they would cover legal fees for drivers on their respective platforms who are sued under Texas’s restrictive abortion law that went into effect this week and allows people to prosecute ride-share drivers for transporting women to clinics to receive abortions. Others of the state's big employers, including Dell Technologies and American Airlines, have so far remained quiet about the law, which rules out abortion as an option before most women even know they are pregnant and turns citizens into "bounty hunters." Not so quiet? Activists on TikTok, programmers, and Twitter and Reddit users; they've been overwhelming the state with false reports, some of them tips about fictional characters from Marvel's Avengers.
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Talking Shop with Twitter's Recent Head of Corp Dev, and Now VC, Seksom Suriyapa
Seksom Suriyapa was seemingly destined to land at a venture firm. A Stanford Law graduate, he worked at two blue-chip investment banks before joining the cybersecurity company McAfee as a senior corp dev employee, later logging six years at the human resources software company SuccessFactors and, in 2018, landing at Twitter, where he headed up its 12-person corporate development team until June.
The bigger surprise is that Suriyapa — who just joined the L.A.-based venture firm Upfront Ventures — didn’t make the leap sooner. “The catalyst was finding a firm that felt like the exact right fit for me,” says Suriyapa.
We talked earlier today with Suriyapa — who lives and will remain in the Bay Area — about his new role at Upfront, where he will be leading its expanding growth-stage practice with firm founder Yves Sisteron.
He also shed light on how Twitter — which has been on a bit of buying spree — thinks about acquisitions these days. Our chat has been edited lightly for length.
How did you wind up joining Upfront?
[Longtime partner] Mark Suster and I were introduced through a mutual business acquaintance in the venture world, and I got to know him over a period of time and really came to find him to be a remarkable individual. He’s thoughtful about the business itself, he’s an incredible brand builder. I think you could argue that [Upfront] put L.A. on the venture map.
It was also, for a long time, an early-stage firm, but now it has a ‘barbell’ strategy. Is your new job to make sure it can maintain its stake in its portfolio companies as they grow? Can you shop outside of that portfolio?
The mission for me will be supporting the best of Upfront’s hundred-plus existing portfolio companies that are poised to scale, and also to invest in companies not currency on the platform, and I anticipate [the latter] will happen more and more over time.
Twitter was a lot more active on the corp dev front during the years when you were there. Why?
When i joined in 2018, Jack Dorsey had been CEO for about three years, and really his focus was on the core mission of driving the public conversation, and in doing that, Twitter shrunk itself out of a lot of businesses and [shrunk] people wise as well.
It laid people off in 2016.
And one of the offshoots of that was way less in the way of newer products, so there were no new acquisitions in the three years prior to me joining, and that muscle atrophies if you don’t exercise it.
Massive Fundings
Disc Medicine, a four-year-old, Cambridge, Ma.-based clinical-stage biotech focused on hematologic diseases, raised $90 million in Series B funding. OrbiMed led the round, joined by Arix Bioscience, Janus Henderson Investors, 5AM Ventures, Rock Springs Capital, Nantahala Capital Management, Willett Advisors, and Alexandria Venture Investments. FierceBiotech has more here.
Big-But-Not-Crazy-Big Fundings
AON3D, a six-year-old, Montreal-based company that manufactures industrial 3D printers for thermoplastics, has raised $11.5 million in Series A funding. SineWave Ventures led the round, joined by AlleyCorp, Y Combinator Continuity, BDC, EDC, Panache Ventures, MANA Ventures, and numerous individual investors. TechCrunch has more here.
Centaur Labs, a four-year-old, Boston-based medical data labeling startup, has raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Matrix Partners, with participation from Accel, Global Founders Capital, Susa Ventures and Y Combinator. Forbes has more here.
Kalepa, a three-year-old, New York-based insurance underwriting platform based out of New York, has raised a $14 million Series A funding round led by Inspired Capital, with participation from previous investor IA Ventures and numerous notable individual investors, including industry operators Gokul Rajaram, Jackie Reses, and Henry Ward. TechCrunch has more here.
Smaller Fundings
Clootrack, a four-year-old, Aldie, Va.-based startup that sells customer experience analytics to enterprises, has raised $4 million in Series A funding led by Inventus Capital India, with participation from earlier backers Unicorn India Ventures, IAN Fund, Salamander Excubator Angel Fund, and CEO Babu Sivadasan. TechCrunch has more here.
Explosion, a five-year-old, Berlin, Germany-based company that has combined an open source machine learning library with a set of commercial developer tools, announced a $6 million Series A today at a $120 million post-money valuation. The round, which represents just a 5% stake in the company, was led by SignalFire; the deal includes warrants of $12 million in additional investment at the same price. TechCrunch has more here.
Marpipe, a two-year-old, New York-based startup whose freemium self-serve offering automates multivariate ad creative testing, raised $8 million in Series A funding. Stage 2 Capital led the round, joined by ValueStream Ventures, Commerce Ventures, Ripple Ventures, and Samsung. More here.
theCut, a five-year-old, Washington D.C.-based barbershop booking platform, has raised $4.5 million in seed funding. Nextgen Venture Partners led the round, joined by Elevate Ventures, Singh Capital, and Leadout Capital. TechCrunch has more here.
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SaaStr Annual 2021, the world's largest non-vendor B2B software event, is almost at capacity! 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. 
Going Public
Up to 15 companies could launch in the week ahead, including Swiss sports betting firm Sportradar Group, tech consultancy Thoughtworks, identity management platform ForgeRock, drive-thru coffee chain Dutch Bros, and eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker. Renaissance Capital has more here.
Harvard professor Willy Shih explains the ongoing chip shortage that's affecting cars, phones, computers, and more.
New York angel investor Joanne Wilson says she's throwing in the towel for now. "Valuations have become out of control."
Essential Reads
A computer using artificial intelligence can’t be listed as an inventor on patents because only a human can be an inventor under U.S. law, a federal judge ruled in the first American decision that’s part of a global debate over how to handle computer-created innovation. Bloomberg has more here.
Vine creator Dom Hofmann’s new project, Loot, explained.
The week in pictures.
How it feels to quit a job remotely.
"We have been trying to reach you regarding your outstanding Armageddon response."
Retail Therapy
Reviewers really like that Rivian pick-up truck!
Rollers return.
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Designed to manage complex deal flow pipelines, Affinity CRM for VCs automates, standardizes, and optimizes your deal process. By consolidating deal flow and relationship management into one place, teams can focus on making new connections and driving new deals without losing track of valuable information. Learn how investment teams around the world use Affinity to discover new opportunities, gain new insights, and close more quality deals faster.  


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