Archive for the ‘Venture’ Category

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Grotech Ventures, the Virginia-based VC firm behind
LivingSocial, HelloWallet and others; is announcing
the raise of its eighth fund, Grotech Ventures II (“GV
II”), with $225 million in committed capital. The firm
says the fund was oversubscribed by more than 10
percent, and was raised from both existing and new limited partners. GV II bringsGrotech’s total capital
under management to $1.3 billion across all funds. Grotech makes investments across all sectors,
including digital media; social, mobile & cloud
computing; enterprise and infrastructure software;
security technologies; consumer internet &
ecommerce; as well as energy and healthcare IT.
Typically, the firm wants to be the first institutional money raised. Investments range from rom $500,000
to $5 million. The firm’s past bets include HelloWallet, Invincea,
LivingSocial, Logi Analytics, LogRythym, OpenQ,
Optoro and Zenoss. As firm founder Frank Adams
explains, Grotech will only invest in companies where
one of the partners has a “deep domain knowledge in
the space.” As for what the new fund will be put towards, Adams says he is focused on markets
underserved by other early-stage investors.”

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I’d been hearing whispers as of late that Twilio is
meeting with VCs to raise another round, and I just
got the good word from a very, very solid source. I’m told that Twilio is in the process of raising a
Series D, with a goal of raising around $50 million. The talks are still rather early on. In fact, when I first
got wind of the round last week, the first folks I asked
were shocked that we’d already heard about it. At this
point, it sounds like Twilio is aiming to close the
round within the next 2 to 3 weeks. The total amount
raised might change by then, but $50M is the current target. Wondering what the heck a Twilio is? Twilio lets
developers easily build things that require phone
functionality. Want to build a customer service line
with menus narrated by Morgan Freeman? Sure (note:
bring your own Morgan Freeman. Also, someone
please do this. I’ll totally write about it.) Want to build a tool that’ll text you the second Netflix’s Arrested
Development revival season goes live? Already done.
If you need to programmatically do something that
goes down over the phone — be it SMS, voice calls,
or VoIP — Twilio can probably do most of the leg
work with just a few lines of code. Twilio is actually one of my favorite companies in the
valley right now, for at least two reasons: they make
a damned cool product that in turn enables other
damned cool products to be made, and very few
people seem to realize how well they’re doing. While
their CEO Jeff Lawson seems to prefer keeping their financials hush, every whisper I hear about the
company suggests that they’re quietly kicking ass. Amongst other good signs: the company is hiring like
mad, to the point that they just (as in, this week) had
to move into a much bigger office. They actually
couldn’t find a ready-to-go office in SOMA with
enough space for their growing team, so they spent
the better part of the last year retrofitting a spot on Harrison Street that once served as a paper/textile
factory. Twilio has raised $33.5M to date, having most
recently closed a $17M Series C at the end of 2011.
If they successfully raise $50M, it’d be an injection
roughly 1.5x larger than everything they’ve raised so far. When I first started digging around this story, no one I
spoke to could seem to agree on which VC firms were
involved. Turns out, Twilio is just talking to a lot of firms. Two names that seem quite certain to be in
talks at this point are Union Square Ventures and
Bessemer Venture Partners — which makes sense,
as USV has been re-upping with Twilio since their
Series A, and Bessemer has supported them since
their Series B. Keep an eye on these guys, if you’re not already. If
things keep going as they are, I’d bet on them going
public within the next year.

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CapLinked, a startup offering workspaces for
managing business deals, announced today that it
has closed a $2.1 million Series A. The company previously said that it raised a $1.6
million round from FF Angel (the seed-stage fund
operated by Founders Fund), Siemer Ventures, 500
Startups, and others, so this is basically a $500,000
addition. The new investors include Conversion
Capital, Inflection Ventures, The Artesian Group, Googler Chris Harris, and AccessDNA founder Lee
Essener. CapLinked pitches itself as an easier-to-use, cheaper
alternative to the big providers of virtual data rooms.
It creates online workspaces for managing deals,
such as merger and acquisitions and investor
reporting, where the various parties can communicate
and exchange files securely. Customers include Thomson Reuters, Sun Capital, and NextView
Ventures. And yes, in the funding press release, co-founder and
CEO Eric Jackson says he used CapLinked software
to manage this very deal. The company has now
raised a total of more than $3 million.

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Today, gaming console and software company OUYA
announced that they have closed a $15 million round
led by Kleiner Perkins, and with participation from the
Mayfield Fund, NVIDIA, Shasta Ventures and Ocean
Partners. This marks one of the largest institutional
investments to go to a project that had its humble beginnings on Kickstarter. OUYA is a company that launched back in 2012 on
Kickstarter under the guiding hands of Julie Uhrman,
a video game industry veteran who believes that
gaming should be affordable and enjoyable for
everyone. She and the team developed a $99 Android
gaming console, which hooks into the TV and comes with automatic access to free-to-try games. It
launched on the crowdfunding site to much fanfare,
scoring $8.6 million in funding, which ends up being
around 9x more than OUYA asked. Along with the $15 million round, which brings
OUYA’s total amount of funding to $23.5 million, the
company will also be bringing KPCB General Partner
Bing Gordon on to the board of directors. Gordon
brings with him years of experience from Electronic
Arts. Here’s what he had to say about the funding: OUYA’s open source platform creates a new world of
opportunity for established and emerging independent
game creators and gamers alike. There are some
types of games that can only be experienced on a
TV, and OUYA is squarely focused on bringing back
the living room gaming experience. OUYA will allow game developers to unleash their most creative ideas
and satisfy gamers craving a new kind of experience. The OUYA hardware has proven its spot in the
market with the successful Kickstarter project,
followed by an institutional investment led by a firm
such as KPCB. “The message is clear: people want
OUYA,” said Uhrman. But the same story rings true for software, as the
company has seen over 12,000 developers sign up
for the platform to build games and monetize them in
any way they’d like. This is up from 8,000 developer
signups in March. And if that weren’t enough, OUYA has been picked up
by major retailers like GameStop, Best Buy and
Amazon, with availability originally intended to begin
June 4. OUYA is pushing that back to June 25,
however, announcing the delay today as a result of a
desire to be able to meet initial demand. Clearly, the affordable gaming console speaks to
people. But is it enough to make OUYA profitable? In
an interview with TechCrunch, Uhrman explained that
OUYA essentially breaks even on the hardware from
the $99 gaming console, and that all games will be
free-to-try. Curious if that was sustainable, we asked Uhrman if free-to-try would always be the case with
OUYA games. “Free to try is a core tenet of OUYA,” said Uhrman.
“We wanted a gaming experience for the television
that’s inexpensive to get into. Developers monetize
however they’d like to, which is why we have games
with unlockable demos inside a fully paid version, or
micro-transactions, and even a donation based game. I’m looking forward to the first episodic, subscription-
based game,” she said. According to Uhrman, the latest round from KPCB
and friends will go toward further supporting game
developers and development, bringing in exclusive
and unique OUYA content, and meeting the demand
seen from all parts of the world, including Japan,
Brazil, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

20130507-224325.jpg Chute, a startup that offers tools for collecting and
displaying photos, has raised $7 million in Series A
Funding. The round was led by Foundry Group, with
participation from existing investors Freestyle Capital
and US Venture Partners. Chute previously raised a
$2.7 million seed round led by Freestyle. The company allows publishers and other businesses
to pull relevant photos from social networks or collect
them directly from users, then display those images
on their own websites and in real-world locations. It’s
also experimenting with other photo collection
methods, like allowing NBC News reporters to post photos of the presidential inauguration directly from a
Chute mobile reporting app. The larger vision, said co-founder Ranvir Gujral, is to
build “a complete visual platform.” He said that
whenever a company publishes visual content, Chute
should be involved in some way: “That doesn’t have
to mean we publish everything — it just means that
we know about it.” The first step in making that happen, Gujral said, is
“growing our marketshare and awareness,” and indeed
that’s one of the company’s main goals with the new
funding. At the same time, he acknowledged that
there’s work to be done on the product side too. Chute is also making a product announcement today,
unveiling Chute Ads, which allow companies to
incorporate photos, whether from the brand itself or
provided by users, into banner ads. This helps brands
tie together their “paid, owned, and earned media,”
Gujrat said. “As a brand, if I’m putting time into creating great
content and posting it to my Instagram and Pinterest,
I want to put it into my own ad units instead of a
static SWF file,” Gujrat said. “We want to kill the
static SWF file.” The first publisher to offer Chute Ads, which are
scheduled to go live in June, is Condé Nast Traveler.
In a press release, Craig Kostelic, Head of Digital
Global Sales for Condé Nast Travel Network, argues
that the ads “give advertisers the ability to also be
publishers,” and that since they pull content in real- time, “audiences will never see the same ad twice.”