The state of the IPO market

Sixteen months ago, I predicted 2017 would be “the best year for tech IPOs since the dot-com heyday almost two decades ago.” 

Well, that was not exactly what happened — though 2017 was a good year for IPOs compared to previous years. Despite strong public markets, where we saw the NASDAQ jump 28 percent and the Dow by 25 percent — there were 59 VC-backed IPOs, which was an improvement over the 41 we had in 2016 (2018 NVCA Yearbook) — last year was far from the torrent I expected. One key reason was concerns by private companies that public valuations might not give private investors a solid gain. At the same time, there was abundant private capital for those companies, so IPOs were not critical for raising capital.

2018 IPOs are off to a strong start

The highly anticipated and successful IPO by Dropbox (DBX) in March and Spotify’s (SPOT) direct listing in April have put a spotlight on the U.S. tech IPO market. Four recent tech IPOs — Avalara (AVLR), Carbon Black (CBLK), Smartsheet (SMAR) and DocuSign (DOCU) — all revised the filing ranges upward, priced at or above the high-end of the new range, and are trading up an average of 79 percent since their debuts in late April through mid June. This is consistent with tech IPOs so far this year, which have traded up 92 percent.

Halfway through 2018, VC-backed IPOs in the U.S. have reached $6.9 billion, second only to 2012 when Facebook made its debut. I am feeling bullish about the IPO environment over the next 18 to 24 months, with some new factors that merit close attention. As IPOs take off, we will also see an acceleration of M&A.

So what’s in store for the rest of 2018?

We see a pipeline of later-stage companies with strong fundamentals, and pent-up investor demand for fast growth investments. The pipeline of later-stage companies seems larger than ever, and tech IPOs are the strongest among industry sectors so far this year — and at double the pace of last year, according to Renaissance Capital. High-profile companies like Lyft, Sonos, Eventbrite and Airbnb are all in various stages that signal they may go public.

When venture-backed U.S. technology companies go public, it opens the doors for others.

Valuations, though still sky-high in some cases, may not be a roadblock. Some people were worried about whether these companies could sustain the valuations and be able to achieve a strong exit. We have quite a few vivid examples of highly valued private companies that marched forward to an IPO and trade at levels giving good returns to their private investors.

More companies are starting to realize that it is a good time to go public. Even with some temporary pullbacks like Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica incident, Zuck and team went on to blow out first quarter earnings. The markets are still at great levels by historic standards.

A very strong exit environment is good for the VC ecosystem. When venture-backed U.S. technology companies go public, it opens the doors for others.

Strong IPO market will fuel M&A

Robust M&A and IPO cycles tend to flow together, and we seem to be riding that wave already. The last strong joint cycle was in 2014, which saw 124 IPOs and 941 acquisitions (NVCA).

The new tax laws have lowered corporate tax rates, encouraged repatriation of massive offshore cash held by tech companies and brought the cash positions of large tech companies up to the highest levels they have ever been. Not only will there be an uptick in the number of acquisitions, but in the size of transactions as large tech companies become active buyers. Salesforce’s $6.5 billion acquisition of MuleSoft, which had gone public last year, and Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub for $7.5 billion, are good examples. Expect Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft to continue to be active.

We are seeing a number of acquisitions of private tech companies that are realistic IPO candidates. The most vivid example of this was the acquisition of AppDynamics by Cisco last year for $3.7 billion, which was announced at the “11th hour” before what would have been a successful IPO by AppDynamics (which had completed its roadshow and was poised to price).

An IPO filing, even the prepping for an IPO, can serve as a catalyst for an acquisition. The big tech acquirers are tracking all the great young private tech companies, and when an IPO is imminent, it can motivate them into action to acquire a company that is a great strategic fit.

Just recently, Glassdoor was acquired by Recruit Holdings for $1.2 billion and Walmart bought 77 percent of Flipkart for $16 billion — either company could have gone public, but once companies are either on file and preparing for an IPO or make a confidential filing, it becomes a catalyst for potential buyers that have been tracking them for a while to make an acquisition.

Not only will we see acquisitions by the big technology companies, but more traditional-sector companies as well. For example, in October, General Motors acquired Strobe, a startup focused on driverless technology, building on its earlier buy of Cruise Automation. Walmart’s acquisition of Flipkart, the Indian e-commerce giant, is another example.

Technology opportunity follows public demand

Growing concerns about privacy and security have created a lot of interesting opportunities, and emerging companies in those sectors are achieving scale rapidly. We are seeing a lot of demand for companies using technology to solve cybersecurity issues; for example, Zscaler saw its shares more than double on its first day of trading back in March. 2018 is projected to be a strong year for cybersecurity IPOs, with companies like Cloudflare, Illumio and Lookout.

Startups now have more options, including remaining private.

We have seen this movie before — back in the early 2000s when the tech industry was climbing its way out of the dot-com bust, cybersecurity companies were among the first to gain traction, along with startups using technology to help Fortune 500 companies cut costs — an early standout was VMware, which pioneered server virtualization and was quickly gaining market share before it was acquired by EMC in 2004.

Regulatory easing

The current administration’s relaxation of the JOBS act has made the regulatory environment more benign than it has been for a long time, which could make things easier for companies to go public.

Larger private companies can now use the confidential filing provision of the JOBS Act that smaller tech companies have had access to over the last few years. The SEC is also proposing to allow the larger private equity companies to use the test-the-waters provision of the JOBS Act. These provisions dramatically reduce any perceived risk of a disappointing IPO.

New exit opportunities via private equity and direct listings

Startups now have more options, including remaining private. That said, times are even more interesting for private companies looking for liquidity. Private equity firms and sovereign wealth funds are coming into the game and buying up tech startups, thereby providing another exit opportunity.

Recently, Spotify turned heads with its unusual IPO by doing a direct listing. For companies that do not need primary capital and are already well-known by investors, the direct listing is a realistic option. For a company with these characteristics, the biggest reason a company would do a direct listing is to save on fees and redirect who benefits from the first day pop.

There is a lot of speculation whether more companies will choose a direct listing over the traditional IPO and how it impacts VC. I believe it is beneficial for the VC ecosystem as it is another way for companies to go public. However, I do not expect too many companies will follow the direct listing approach Spotify took, as they were in a somewhat unique position.

It’s exciting to see alternatives to the traditional IPO, and the second half of this year into 2019 will likely see a boom of IPOs. Going public enables startups to provide liquidity for employees and investors, as well as generate much-needed publicity and credibility, which in turn bring customers and revenue. It’s an exciting time to be in the technology VC space following a year of unexpected drama.

Source: Tech Crunch

Win cash and prizes in the Virtual Hackathon at Disrupt SF 2018

Our Startup Battlefield pitch competition may be legendary, but it’s not the only throw-down going on at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 on September 5-7. This year, in honor of the largest Disrupt event ever, we’ve launched the Virtual Hackathon. Thousands of the best developers, coders and hackers will compete — from anywhere in the world — to build tech products that address and solve a range of challenges.

And we have even more contests, cash and prizes to share with you — more on that in a minute. Right now, you better sign up and get moving, because the deadline to submit your hacks is August 2.

Our team of judges will review every eligible project and assign each submission a score between 1-5. Score criteria include the idea quality, technical implementation and potential market impact.

The 100 highest-scoring teams will receive up to five Innovator Passes to attend TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018. They can enjoy everything the show has to offer, including (for starters) Startup Alley, incredible speakers from four unique stages, Startup Battlefield, Q&A sessions and the TC After Party — the perfect place to network in a fun atmosphere.

The teams who make the top 30 will move on to compete in the semifinals at Disrupt SF, where they will demo their creation to a team of judges. Those judges will then select 10 teams to go on to the finals, where they will step onto The Next Stage and showcase their baby to an audience of thousands of Disrupt SF attendees.

Finally, one team will rise above the rest, win the $10,000 grand prize and become the first-ever TechCrunch Disrupt Virtual Hackathon champ.

OK, let’s get back to the bit about more contests, cash and prizes. You also can win some sweet cash from contests sponsored by BYTON, TomTom and Viond, plus Visa and HERE Mobility.

The Virtual Hackathon takes place at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 on September 5-7, but you have only until August 2 if you want your hack to be eligible. Don’t miss the fun and excitement. Sign up to participate in the Virtual Hackathon and start hacking today.

Source: Tech Crunch

The brains behind one of marketing’s biggest hits are out to reshape the industry again… with direct mail

Postie, a new Los Angeles-based startup, has a vision for the future of advertising and marketing — and it’s direct mail.

Founded by some of the men responsible for the biggest hits in online marketing (like the Dollar Shave Club commercial that launched what became a billion-dollar acquisition) think that it’s time to take technology where it’s never gone before — into targeted, direct mail campaigns using the best ad-targeting that money can buy.

Postie uses a combination of online data collection and an on-demand print and mail technology to give its customers turnaround times on print orders in as little as 24 hours, and what the company boasts is the equivalent of online ad-targeting.

Using the service, customers can access demographic, interest and behavioral data of more than 320 million people; can use retargeting to provide direct mail campaigns; and integrate with existing customer relationship management tools.

The company was founded by Dave Fink and Jonathan Neddenriep, two former principals at the startup studio and early-stage investor, Science. At the early-stage investment firm, Fink said he was responsible for marketing activities for companies including Dollar Shave Club, DogVacay, SpringRole, Wishbone and Hello Society over the six years he worked at the company. Neddenriep served as the chief technology officer for Science — a role he’s continuing at Postie.

Where once Fink focused on reaching the widest possible audience with a viral message that could cut through the noise of online advertising, the scale of his messaging is now much smaller, even if the scope of the market he’s trying to capture remains just as vast.

“A highly targeted physical piece of mail, especially in today’s ephemeral world, elicits an emotional response that goes above and beyond what is possible online,” says Fink, in a statement. “It’s now possible to open up a whole new scalable media channel by leveraging the same data driven insights and quantitative approach as digital.”

According to study from the Direct Marketing Association, direct mail campaigns rang up $46 billion from advertisers and companies in 2014, and Fink and his co-founder are hoping that number will climb.

They aren’t the only ones. Postie has raised $3.5 million in seed funding from the Los Angeles-based firms Bonfire Ventures and Crosscut Ventures to expand its business (maybe through direct marketing?).


Source: Tech Crunch

Anthony Levandowski is back with a new self-driving startup, called

This is a comeback story. Or at least the first chapter to one.

Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer and serial entrepreneur who was at the center of a trade secrets lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, is back. And he is connected to an autonomous trucking company that is still in stealth mode, TechCrunch has learned.

The company, called (pronounced like cache), has kept a low profile since paperwork registering it as a corporation was first filed with the California Secretary of State nearly seven months ago. And at first glance, there’s no indication that Levandowski is even tied to the company.

Corporation documents, filed with the state, list a “Thomas S. Lee Jr” as its president. A search on LinkedIn showed Lee, a software developer whose previous experience includes co-founding two San Diego-based companies, as president of Since reaching out to, all references of the company have been removed from LinkedIn.

However, the address listed on the corporation’s state filing tells a different story.’s documents filed with the state lists an address in St. Helena, California. The property is owned by Levandowski’s father and stepmother, according to property tax and title records reviewed by TechCrunch. Levandowski’s stepmother Suzanna Musick was CEO of another one of Levandowski’s startups called 510 Systems.

The company didn’t return calls for comment. However, other unnamed sources within the global autonomous vehicle ecosystem confirmed to TechCrunch that Levandowski is connected to the company.

Little is known about The word “Kǎchē” in Chinese means truck, which could signal a connection to China. Although TechCrunch was not able to independently verify if has any outside partners or backers yet.

The company’s website, which at one point listed an email contact for Lee and described its mission, is now blank except for a single image of a jagged mountain ridge. TechCrunch was able to review and capture screenshots of the website prior to the changes, one of which is shown above. At that time, the website said the company was working on “the next generation of autonomous vehicle technology for the commercial trucking industry.” The employment opportunities section of the now erased website once said:

“We’re developing the solution for the next level of on-the-road self-driving trucks. Our development philosophy is based on a fast moving, very aggressive agile team approach and we’re seeking both software and hardware engineers that thrive in such an environment.”

It appears the company is hiring at every level, from mapping and database experts to people with robotics and simulation skills. The website also noted that the company is looking for software engineers with experience in convolutional neural networks as well as computer vision and machine learning algorithms.

The website said is located in the San Francisco area.

A not so unlikely return

To outsiders, Levandowski’s return to the autonomous vehicle stage might have seemed improbable just a year ago. To former colleagues and others who know him, it was inevitable. However, outside a few vague remarks that Levandowski was “working on something,” his return (until now) was mostly based on rumor and speculation.

Levandowski is part of the braintrust of autonomous vehicle technology that for years was largely confined to academic research.

That began to change on March 13, 2004 when 15 teams brought their autonomous vehicles to the desert outside of Barstow, California. They were there to compete in the Grand Challenge, a 142-mile race sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to encourage development of autonomous vehicle technology. Levandowski’s “blue team” had the distinction of being the only one to bring a two-wheeled vehicle, an autonomous motorcycle they called Ghostrider. The vehicle is now at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

And while not a single team completed the course, it prompted DARPA to hold two more autonomous vehicle challenges. The endeavor fueled the interest and passion of a few dozen people who would later go onto to lead Google’s self-driving project, head AV R&D efforts at large companies, or looks for ways to move the autonomous vehicle needle forward. Levandowski was one of them.

In 2007, Levandowski joined Google, where he was one of the principal architects of Google Street View. The engineer had other projects too, notably a startup called 510 Systems that made and sold sensor systems to his employer, Google. 510 Systems was a pioneer of using light ranging and detection systems known as LiDAR to make maps. Google quietly bought 510 Systems and another one of his startups Anthony’s Robots in 2011.

(Photo: ANGELO MERENDINO/AFP/Getty Images)

A meteoric rise and fall

After nearly nine years at Google, Levandowski left the company with fellow Google employee Lior Ron. The pair founded Ottomotto, which later became Otto, along with Don Burnette and Claire Delaunay.

The timing couldn’t have been better. The race to deploy autonomous vehicles had heated up, creating a frenzied winner-takes-all environment. Competition between companies to attract talent pushed up salaries and incentives. For those, who had been on the ground floor at Google’s self-driving project and other high-profile startups and academic positions, the world was theirs for the taking. The venture capital community didn’t just take note; they poured money into the effort. Large automakers and Tier 1 suppliers looking for an edge started snapping up startups brimming with self-driving technology talent.

Uber’s purchase of Otto for an eye-popping $680 million in August 2016 — just months after its founding — was just one example of the feeding frenzy. As part of the acquisition, Levandowski became head of Uber’s self-driving car research. (Documents filed as part of the lawsuit between Waymo and Uber suggest the pay out might have been as low as $220 million.)

But the buzz around the size of the Otto deal would soon be replaced with a different, more unwelcoming kind of attention.

Nine months after the acquisition, Uber was embroiled in a trade secrets lawsuit with Waymo, the former Google self-driving project that spun out to become a business under Alphabet. And Levandowski was out of a job.

The lawsuit, filed against self-driving truck startup Otto and its parent company Uber in February 2017, alleged patent infringement and stealing trade secrets. The lawsuit made a number of allegations specifically against Levandowski, including that he downloaded more than 14,000 confidential and proprietary files shortly before his resignation. Waymo contended that Otto and Uber were using key parts of its self-driving technology, specifically related to its light detection and ranging radar. This technology, known in the industry as LiDAR, measures distance using laser light to generate highly accurate 3D map of the world around the car.

The case went to trial in February 2018. After days of titillating testimony, including from former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, the two parties reached a settlement agreement. Uber agreed to not incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into their hardware and software. Uber also agreed to pay a financial settlement that includes 0.34% of Uber equity, per its Series G-1 round $72 billion valuation. In other words, Waymo got about $244.8 million in Uber equity.

Six weeks later, Uber would be grappling with the tragic fatal accident involving one of its self-driving test vehicles in Tempe, Arizona.

The other three Otto founders have all left Uber as well. Burnette, the last one to depart, founded an autonomous vehicle company in April called Kodiak Robotics with Paz Eshel, who formerly worked at Battery Ventures. next chapter

Levandowski’s return will likely raise questions, and possibly even anger, people within Uber and Waymo. However, it’s unclear if will even use LiDAR, the sensing technology at the heart of the trade secrets lawsuit and one of Levandowski’s talents.

Some autonomous trucking startups have avoided LiDAR except for use in mapping because they argue that the sensors aren’t practical on a heavy duty autonomous truck traveling on highways at speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour. Instead, autonomous trucking companies like TuSimple use multiple cameras, which have better resolution. If bypasses LiDAR —which at this point is unclear — it could help alleviate IP concerns and attract investors.

For now, the beginning of’s story is tied to Levandowski’s past, which is marked by engineering prowess and ingenuity as well as legal and ethical missteps. The remaining chapters will reveal whether the unique value prop of what is developing is strong enough to render all of that moot.

Source: Tech Crunch

Code2040’s Karla Monterroso on desegregating the tech industry

Welcome back to CTRL+T, the TechCrunch podcast that connects the tech to the human. This week we talked about the beta release of Apple’s latest mobile operating system and some of the issues we have with the Memoji feature. We also discussed the fact that Microsoft improved its facial recognition tech, making it easier to identify darker skin tones. Oh great.

Finally, Karla Monterroso of Code2040 joined us in the studio to drop some pretty hard truths about diversity in tech. The CEO of Code2040, which aims to increase the representation of black and brown people in the industry, says that the tech workforce is segregated. In 2018. Think about that. And that often the burden to effect change from within a company is placed on those two or three — or one or two — black and Latinx folks.

“Managers are asking the brown people to be the tech Ruby Bridges and to come in and be full-throated in their opinions, but you are not setting up the safety mechanisms for those people to be able to do that safely,” Monterroso says. She added that there’s a lot of data that says people of color drop out in the second or third years of their tech careers because you’re stepping into a hostile environment often.

“You gotta be in this conversation thinking about risk and power,” Monterroso told us. “If I am a person and I am one or two black or Latinx people in this entire company… and I say, ‘hey this thing is wrong and it’s hurting me.’ …. It’s much riskier for that person because their economic security and their social security within their company is at stake.”

Click play below to hear the full interview. It’s great and you’ll learn some stuff. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, what are you waiting for? Find us on Apple PodcastsStitcherOvercastCastBox or whatever other podcast platform you can find.

Source: Tech Crunch

Facebook bug temporarily unblocked people from 800,000+ block lists

If you block someone on Facebook, you probably want them to… you know, stay blocked. At least unless you say otherwise.

Facebook has just disclosed that around 800,000 users were impacted by a bug that silently unblocked “some” people they had blocked.

The bug was live from May 29th until June 5, the company says.

Worth noting: the bug didn’t go so far as to make the would-be blocked individual your friend (even if they were your friend prior to the block), so anything an affected individual might’ve posted to a friends-only audience should have remained private. It would, however, allow a blocked user to do things like contact you on Messenger, or try to re-add you as a friend.

While Facebook isn’t saying much about what caused the bug, they’re sending out a notification (pictured above) to anyone they believe was affected.

Update — Facebook has shared some more details about the cause of the bug with TechCrunch’s Josh Constine via Twitter.

Source: Tech Crunch

These 50 founders and VCs suggest 2018 may be a tipping point for women in tech: Part 2

On Friday, we featured 25 founders and VCs who are having a notable 2018 — and who happen to be women. Herewith, 25 more who deserve some kudos for getting it done in the first half of this year. This list, meant to highlight the growing number of women with interesting companies or starting venture firms to watch, could easily be several times longer, we’re gleefully aware. Please feel free to tweet us or nominate in our comments section other women who’ve reached a particular milestone in 2018 and should be included in future profiles of female leaders who are on the rise, along with their organizations.

Shan-Lyn Ma, founder and CEO of Zola

Shan-Lyn Ma has huge ambitions for her wedding registry startup Zola, and her investors clearly trust her instincts. Indeed, Ma — a former executive with the e-commerce companies Gilt Groupe and Chloe + Isabel  — originally started Zola to reinvent the traditional registry process. Now, Ma sees instead an opportunity to eventually address every need a young couple may have, from caterers to Cuisinarts, to eventually, perhaps, even home mortgages.

It’s well on its way, connecting engaged couples to 600 brands and 60,000 products. With the $100 million in Series D funding that Zola closed last month, its technology will presumably only grow more efficient — and ubiquitous. “Right now, we’re investing for growth. But we’re marching toward that goal where we are a huge company, serving companies across the entire wedding-planning journey, and have a business that supports that mission. Absolutely,” she tells us.

Heather Mirjahangir Fernandez, co-founder and CEO of Solv

For nine years, Stanford MBA Heather Mirjahangir Fernandez led advertising product, marketing and sales strategy for Trulia, which builds tools and sells subscription services to real estate agents. But after Trulia was acquired by Zillow, Fernandez decided she’d learned enough to become a founder herself, co-founding Solv, a healthcare startup that, in the words of Forbes, “wants to do for urgent care what OpenTable did for restaurants, by bringing transparent pricing and easy-to-book appointments to the industry.”

There’s “something working in healthcare today, and it’s a category called convenient care,” Fernandez, who is CEO, told the outlet. Investors think Solv is particularly adept at booking urgent care visits through its products, providing the company with $21 million, including $16.8 million that Solv closed this past May.

Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller, co-founders, Mented Cosmetics

Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller met as Harvard Business School classmates. Now, they’re the founders of Mented, a cosmetics company for women of color whose message, and products — including nude lipsticks that match deeper skin tones — is resonating. As Miller told Forbes last fall, “Girls have been tagging their friends in their posts . . . Women of color were used to being treated as an afterthought. It’s not every day that you’re a priority.”

The company seems to be at the top of investors’ minds, certainly. After closing $1 million in seed funding last year, the outfit last month closed another $3 million round of funding that Johnson and Miller are using to expand Mented’s product range, which currently includes lip glosses, eyeshadows, nail polishes and accessories aimed at helping spread the word.

Jen Rubio and Steph Korey, co-founders of Away

Jen Rubio and Steph Korey met while working at eyeglass outfit Warby Parker, and they together spied what looked like a gap in the market between junky travel offerings that threatened to fall apart and richly priced luggage that was too expensive for even gainfully employed millennials.

Their solution was Away, which makes “first-class luggage at coach price,” which Rubio and Corey say they can offer by selling directly to consumers, rather than through third parties that would eat into profit margins. The price belies some sophistication: Away’s polycarbonite bags come with 100 parts, including a lithium-ion battery located underneath the handle that travelers can eject to remain compliant with airline policies and which investors seem to like. Indeed, just last week, they provided the company with $50 million in fresh funding led by earlier investors Forerunner Ventures, Global Founders Capital and Comcast Ventures. Away has now raised $81 million altogether.

Lea von Bidder, co-founder and CEO of Ava

Lea von Bidder knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. She trained for it, nabbing degrees in entrepreneurship at Zhejiang University, Purdue University and Ecode de Management de Lyon while also burnishing her operating skills via a marketing stint at Proctor & Gamble, and strategy consulting at Estrin & Co. in Paris.

All would lead to Ava, a med-tech startup that has been called the Fitbit for fertility because of its popular tracking bracelet that monitors nine physiological parameters to help detect users’ fertility windows, from breathing rate to pulse rate to temperature. Indeed, despite plenty of competition from other ovulation trackers, investors think Ava is on to something, providing the company with $30 million in Series B funding late last month. The majority of Ava’s new funding came from earlier investors, with prominent European VC firms btov and SVC also joining the round.

Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy, co-founders of Modern Fertility

A San Francisco-based startup called Modern Fertility wants to educate women about their reproductive health much earlier in their lives, enabling them to become more “proactive” instead of reactive, says co-founder and CEO Afton Vechery, a former product manager at the genetic testing company 23andMe and, before that, an analyst at a healthcare-focused private equity firm. In both jobs, Vechery learned of the growing number of companies that are empowering customers with information about their own bodies. At 23andMe in particular, she also came to appreciate the importance of making that information affordable. Indeed, after shelling out $1,500 for tests run by a reproductive endocrinologist to get a better picture of her own reproductive health, Vechery and her friend and co-founder Carly Leahy, a creative strategist, set out to create similar tests that one needn’t be a Rockefeller to order.

The product they built — an at-home finger-prick hormone test that sells for $199 — is something investors are betting will take off. The day that the tests were made available to customers for the first time, in late May, Modern Fertility also announced $6 million in funding, co-led by Maveron and Union Square Ventures.

Sarah Smith, partner at Bain Capital Ventures

Sarah Smith spent roughly five years at Facebook in a variety of roles before logging another roughly five years at the question-and-answers site Quora, where she served as the company’s vice president of advertising sales and operations. While Smith was gaining operating expertise, the one-time music education major knew she wanted to break into the world of venture capital. Part of that effort included helping out Village Global, a young venture firm that relies on a network of entrepreneurs and angel investors as deal scouts, and is backed by big wheels like Reid Hoffman and Bill Gates. Smith also worked three years as a partner with Graph Ventures, a seven-year-old, early-stage investment group, where she sourced 20 deals, including Winnie, whose founders we featured here. As Smith recently told Forbes, “When I thought about the next steps in my career, [venture capital] seemed the best way to work with multiple companies.”

Ultimately, Smith decided that the best place to do that is with Bain Capital Ventures, which recruited Smith as its first female investing partner in late May — a big deal, considering the firm has been up and running for 17 years. For Smith, the opportunity isn’t merely to help BCV reshape its thinking and (likely) attract more female founders, it’s also a chance for her to write bigger checks to startups, given that BCV is currently investing out of a $600 million fund (and is likely to close another big fund in the not-too-distant future).

Preethi Kasireddy, founder and CEO of TruStory

Investing in initial coin offerings, or ICOs, is a minefield. This isn’t just true for people with absolutely no technical background but also for many investors who may be well-versed in tech but still struggle to understand many projects’ white papers. Enter L.A.-based TruStory, a platform for users to research and validate claims that people make online, whether in a blog post, white paper, website or social media post. The young company’s aim is to “bring authenticity back into the digital and decentralized world.”

At least it will be when it gets built. Right now, investors are betting entirely on the talents of TruStory’s founder, Preethi Kasireddy, a USC grad who studied industrial and systems engineering before taking a job as a banking analyst with Goldman Sachs after graduating and, later, a role with Andreessen Horowitz’s deals group. A third job, with the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, would lead her to teach herself software engineering, enabling her to architect and implement the front-end interfaces and APIs required for the integration of Ethereum onto Coinbase’s brokerage platform, among other things. Maybe it’s no wonder that investors, including Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam, gave TruStory $3 million in funding this year, given Kasireddy’s penchant for getting things done.

Nicky Goulimis, co-founder and CEO of Nova Credit

There are more than 50 million immigrants in the U.S. and Canada, and more than 240 million immigrants around the world. In fact, immigrants account for one of the fastest-growing demographics in the world and are expected to drive more than 80 percent of population growth in developed economies. Yet when they arrive in the U.S. as students or for work, they’re basically credit invisible. Nova Credit, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based startup, is trying to address the issue by providing lenders, property managers and other businesses with real-time international credit reports in order for them to acquire immigrant consumers from around the world.

The company’s founder, Nicky Goulimis, a native of Greece who grew up in the U.K., came up with the idea while attending Stanford’s grad school, where she quickly discovered the problems she faced — including difficulty in getting an apartment without a U.S. credit report (no choice but to pay several months’ rent up front), getting a credit card (which involved having to use small amounts on a very limited card, pay it off, then ask for a progressively larger credit line) — have been the case for all internationals relocating to the U.S. for years. In fact, her two co-founders — Misha Esipov, whose parents moved to the U.S. from Russia, and Loek Janssen, who arrived at Stanford from the Netherlands — experienced the same things.

The good news: investors see opportunity in addressing the issue. Earlier this year, General Catalyst and Index Ventures led a $16 million Series A round in Nova Credit. First Round Capital, Nyca and Y Combinator also joined the financing.

Casey Lynch, co-founder and CEO of Cortexyme

Cortexyme, a five-year-old, South San Francisco-based developer of Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics, raised $76 million in Series B funding at the end of last month, including from Sequoia Capital, Vulcan Capital and Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences subsidiary.

The company’s CEO? Casey Lynch, a serial entrepreneur with a background in Alzheimer’s research at both UCSF and Stanford, whose biggest fear is that our bodies are living ever longer, while our brains have the same short half-life. She’s trying to do something about it, too. Specifically, Cortexyme believes that toxic bacterial proteins secrete enzymes that digest our brain cells, causing our neurons to fall apart. Toward that end, Lynch’s company has looked at dozens of Alzheimer’s patients’ brains to confirm that the proteins are causing the problem, not merely correlated with it. Whether the narrow antibiotic that Cortexyme is developing to take on these proteins will work remains an open question, but clearly investors — including early backer Breakout Ventures, a venture firm that counts Peter Thiel as its anchor investor — think it has a shot.

Stephanie Alsbrooks and Georgine Muntz, co-founders, defi SOLUTIONS

People in Silicon Valley circles don’t know Stephanie Alsbrooks or Georgine Muntz, but their five-year-old, Texas-based company, defi SOLUTIONS, certainly caught the attention of the folks at Bain Capital Ventures, which provided it with $55 million in the company in January.

What’s the attraction? For starters, Alsbrooks and Muntz have spent the last 14 years, collectively, in the world of auto finance; the experience makes them as well-positioned as any to run a software-as-a-service business aimed at the auto-lending industry. It’s also a huge industry. In 2016, the total balance of auto loans outstanding in the U.S. hit a record $1.2 trillion.

Bain also insists that defi gives lenders far more control and configurability so they can manage a loan’s entire life cycle without expensive and oft-delayed professional services. That’s a big deal in a world not known for being especially insightful about customers’ pain points.

Alexandra Zatarain, co-founder and CMO of Eight

Alexandra Zatarain was born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, where most of her family lived, before she set out for New York and a job in public relations. Zatarain might have stayed in PR, too, if not for her father, who was struck with terminal cancer and suffered the loss of strength and body heat that afflicts so many cancer sufferers. It made Zatarain — missing him from 4,400 miles away — wonder what a product might look that could have monitored him remotely, as well as made him more comfortable.

Enter Eight, an online mattress company Zatarain created four years ago with three co-founders, whose beds also track users’ sleep, allows them to set the ideal temperature for both sides of their bed and sets “smart alarms.” The startup, which already sells three models of mattresses, ranging in price from $699 to $1,299, is certainly a soothing proposition to investors. Earlier this year, Eight raised $14 million in Series B funding led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from Y Combinator and Yunqi Partners. The company has now raised $27 million altogether.

Marcela Sapone and Jessica Beck, co-founders of Hello Alfred

Marcela Sapone and Jessica Beck didn’t set out to create a startup that handles people chores, one to-do item at a time. The friends, who met while at Harvard Business School, decided to explore the idea after they hired help from Craigslist to assist with their own laundry and grocery shopping, splitting the cost and attracting the attention of acquaintances in the process. “It was a little bit of an accident,” Sapone once told Business Insider. “We built the product for ourselves, and over time people in our apartment building said ‘Hey, can I get in on that?’”

Fast-forward and their four-year-old, New York-based company, Hello Alfred, now relies on a growing flock of trained home helpers who help customers of their company with all kinds of chores on a once-a-week basis, enabling the company to charge the kind of monthly subscription fee that investors like to see. Just a few weeks ago, in fact, Hello Alfred closed on $40 million in fresh funding led by real estate developers Divco West and Invesco, with participation from Spark Capital and New Enterprise Associates. The company has now raised more than $52 million altogether.

Alex Friedman and Jordana Kier, co-founders of LOLA

Launched in 2015, LOLA’s founders Alex Friedman and Jordana Kier formed a company around an idea that they thought stood a chance of challenging industry giants Tampax and Playtex: 100 percent organic feminine products. As Kier told TechCrunch a couple of weeks ago, “We founded LOLA with a simple and seemingly obvious idea — as women, we shouldn’t have to compromise when it comes to our reproductive health.” Indeed, Kier said, “Like most women, we’d been using the same feminine care products since we were teenagers. But when we found out that brands — including the same ones we were loyal to all those years — aren’t required to disclose exactly what’s in their products, it made us wonder: what’s in our tampon?”

Smart question — and clearly one that Kier and Friedman were alone in asking, given the company appears to be growing at a healthy clip. It’s direct-to-consumer subscription approach — it ships out tampons, pads and liners that are made only with organic cotton and don’t contain fragrances or dyes — appeals to investors, too. Earlier this month, the company closed on $24 million in Series B funding led by Alliance Consumer Growth, with participation from Spark Capital, Lerer Hippeau and Brand Foundry Ventures. The company has now raised just north of $35 million altogether.

Alyssa Ravasio, founder and CEO of Hipcamp

Alyssa Ravasio always loved the outdoors and according to a recent Forbes profile, headed to a developer boot camp after striking on the idea of creating a site filled with everything a camper needs to know about state and national campgrounds, including, say, a nearby surf break they might want to check out. An even bigger insight would come later: that there was an opportunity to partner with private land owners to give camper’s the kind of experience they can’t enjoy at a crowded campground.

Enter Hipcamp, a now five-year-old, San Francisco-based operator of a site for travelers to discover and book camping experiences, and which raised $9.5 million in Series A funding last month led by Benchmark. It’s a big deal for the company, and gives it more ammunition to compete against a newer, New York-based competitor called Tentrr that raised $8 million in Series A funding earlier this year and is making its way West this summer.

Ruzwana Bashir, founder and CEO of Peek

Ruzwana Bashir, a native of England born to Pakistanti immigrant parents, has said that she was always an explorer, including while studying at Oxford, working in investment banking and private equity at Goldman Sachs and Blackstone and dabbling in the startup world — at Gilt Groupe and — before jumping into entrepreneurship.

Why make the leap? Because of 20 hours spent trying to plan a friend’s birthday in Istanbul, after which it occurred to Bashir that it’d be awfully nice if there were simply a one-stop that helped users discover what to do on their trips and which vendors to use to do it.

So began Peek, a now six-year-old, San Francisco-based “OpenTable for the $100 billion activities market,” as Bashir has described it, that now claims to offer 10,000 experiences in the U.S., Mexico and numerous European cities. The vision has struck a chord with investors, too. Just two weeks ago, the company closed on $23 million in Series B funding led by Cathay Innovation, with participation from numerous individual investors. The company has now raised $40 million altogether.

Lisa Shields, founder of Hyperwallet

In mid-June, PayPal announced that it’s paying $400 million in cash for Hyperwallet, an 18-year-old, Bay Area-based company that helps people and small businesses receive payments for products and services that they sell, including through the vacation rental platform HomeAway and the skin care marketing company Rodan & Fields. What was the allure? Well, Hyperwallet interlinks cash networks, card schemes and mobile money services with domestic ACH networks around the world to enable what it characterizes as “disruptively priced” and, as crucially, compliant mass payments.

If you think the company was flying low, its founder, and former CEO Lisa Shields, seems to fly even lower, despite her bona fides as an entrepreneur. Indeed, the MIT-trained engineer, who originally launched Hyperwallet in Vancouver, last year founded a second company called FI.SPAN, which is an API management platform that aims to allow banks to quickly deploy new business banking products. Before switching gears, however, she was presented with an Entrepreneur of the Year award by EY in 2015, where she’d said she was “honored and humbled, not to mention surprised.”

Cindy Mi, founder and CEO of VIPKid

Cindy Mi started building a global education marketplace from day one with her online education company, VIPKid, which matches Chinese students with North American teachers. The reason, she says: She’d start teaching younger children English at age 15, and she felt, even then, that she was helping to empower these children for a future where the world is increasingly connected.

Following her dream of scaling that effort is certainly paying off, for Mi, for teachers and for students. According to VIPKid, the online company now matches more than 30,000 North American teachers with more than 200,000 primarily Chinese students for one-on-one sessions in English that give teachers extra money and the flexibility to teach when they can. The platform also enables parents to provide the kind of education for their children that might not be available in their own backyards. As for VIPKid, it reportedly brought in $760 million in revenue last year, more than double what it garnered in 2016. Perhaps it’s no wonder that in June, Mi’s company announced a fresh $500 million, at a whopping $3 billion valuation.

Carmen Chang, general partner and head of Asia at New Enterprise Associates

Carmen Chang knows the ins and outs of startups in China as well as anyone, having headed up Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s corporate and securities practice in China before getting plucked out of the global law firm by venture heavyweight New Enterprise Associates, whose China practice she has led for the last five years.
Indeed, if there was any surprise in NEA’s late May announcement that Chang had been promoted to general partner at the firm — the very first woman to hold that most senior role in NEA’s 39 years of operation — it was that Chang, who received her law degree from Stanford and represents the venture firm on 10 different companies’ boards, didn’t hold the title already.

Source: Tech Crunch

Browser maker Opera has filed to go public

Norway-based company Opera Ltd has filed for an initial public offering in the U.S. According to its F-1 document, the company plans to raise up to $115 million.

In 2017, Opera generated $128.9 million in operating revenue, which led to a net income of $6.1 million.

While many people are already familiar with the web browser Opera, the company itself has had a tumultuous history. Opera shareholders separated the company into two different entities — the browser maker and the adtech operations.

The advertising company is now called Otello. And a consortium of Chinese companies acquired the web browser, the consumer products and the Opera brand. That second part is the one that is going public in the U.S.

Opera currently manages a web browser for desktop computers and a handful of web browsers for mobile phones. On Android, you can download Opera, Opera Mini and Opera Touch. On iOS, you’ll only find Opera Mini. More recently, the company launched a standalone Opera News app.

Overall, Opera currently has around 182 million monthly active users across its mobile products, 57.4 million monthly active users for its desktop browser, and 90.2 million users for Opera News in its browsers and standalone app. There’s some overlap across those user bases.

More interestingly, Opera only makes money through three revenue sources. The main one is a deal with two search engines. Yandex is the default search engine in Russia, and Google is the default search engine in the rest of the world. As the company’s user base grows, partners pay more money to remain the default search engine.

“A small number of business partners contribute a significant portion of our revenues,” the company writes in its F-1 document. “In 2017, our top two largest business partners in aggregate contributed approximately 56.1% of our operating revenue, with Google and Yandex accounting for 43.2% and 12.9% of our operating revenue, respectively.”

The rest is ads and licensing deals. You may have noticed that Opera’s speed dial is pre-populated with websites by default, such as or eBay. Those are advertising partners. Some phone manufacturers and telecom companies also pre-install Opera browsers on their devices. The company is getting some revenue from that too.

The browser market is highly competitive and Opera is facing tech giants, such as Google, Apple and Microsoft. At the same time, people spend so much time in their browser that there is probably enough room for a small browser company like Opera. The company will be listed on NASDAQ under the symbol OPRA.

Source: Tech Crunch