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China is funding the future of American biotech

Silicon Valley is in the midst of a health craze, and it is being driven by “Eastern” medicine. It’s been a record year for US medical investing, but investors in Beijing and Shanghai are now increasingly leading the largest deals for US life science and biotech companies. In fact, Chinese venture firms have invested more this year into life science and biotech in the US than they have back home, providing financing for over 300 US-based companies, per Pitchbook. That’s the story at Viela Bio, a Maryland-based company exploring treatments for inflammation and autoimmune diseases, which raised a $250 million Series A led by three Chinese firms. Chinese capital’s newfound appetite also flows into the mainland. Business is booming for Chinese medical startups, who are also seeing the strongest year of venture investment ever, with over one hundred companies receiving $4 billion in investment. As Chinese investors continue to shift their strategies towards life science and biotech, China is emphatically positioning itself to be a leader in medical investing with a growing influence on the world’s future major health institutions. Chinese VCs seek healthy returns We like to talk about things we can interact with or be entertained by. And so as nine-figure checks flow in and out of China with stunning regularity, we fixate on the internet giants, the gaming leaders or the latest media platform backed by Tencent or Alibaba. However, if we follow the money, it’s clear that the top venture firms in China have actually been turning their focus towards the country’s deficient health system. A clear leader in China’s strategy shift has been Sequoia Capital China, one of the country’s most heralded venture firms tied to multiple billion-dollar IPOs just this year. Historically, Sequoia didn’t have much interest in the medical sector.  Health was one of the firm’s smallest investment categories, and it participated in only three health-related deals from 2015-16, making up just 4% of its total investing activity.  Recently, however, life sciences have piqued Sequoia’s fascination, confirms a spokesperson with the firm.  Sequoia dove into six health-related deals in 2017 and has already participated in 14 in 2018 so far.  The firm…

Twilio shops, Uber and Lyft IPO scuttlebutt, and Instacart raises $600M

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This week we had the Three Excellent Friends (Connie Loizos, Danny Chrichton, and Alex Wilhelm) on hand to kick things about with Scale Venture Partner’s own Rory O’Driscoll. As I’ve written the last few weeks, what a pile of news we’ve had recently. And like the last few episodes, we had to pick and choose what to drill into. This week: Twilio-Sendgrid, Palantir, Uber, Lyft, and Tencent Music IPOs, Instacart, and Saudi Arabia. In order, I think? First, we tackled the week’s biggest venture-themed M&A: Twilio buying SendGrid. Keep in mind that they are both recent IPOs; Twilio went out in 2016, and SendGrid in 2017. The $2 billion-ish all-stock transaction is effectively Twilio using its rich market cap (rich in terms of its revenue and profit multiples) to snag an obvious (though intelligent) extension of API-powered communications toolset. Next up we dug into the chance that Palantir is worth $41 billion. Spoiler: It isn’t. Then we chatted the two other recently-floated IPO valuations for Uber ($120 billion) and Lyft ($15 billion). They probably make more sense, depending a little on how you add and then divide. All that and we also touched on the recent delay in the Tencent Music IPO, a profitable company. Then we riffed through the Instacart round ($600 million more at a $7.6 billion valuation; wow), and re-touched on Silicon Valley’s currently least popular dinner party topic: how much Saudi money has recently gone to work powering tech startups. A big thanks to you for not only sticking with Equity for so long, but also for making it quite literally as popular as it has ever been. It’s super fun to have the biggest crew with us every week that we’ve ever had. You, yes you, are a delight. Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.

Seva snares $2.4M seed investment to find info across cloud services

Seva, a New York City startup, that wants to help customers find content wherever it lives across SaaS products, announced a $2.4 million seed round today. Avalon Ventures led the round with participation from Studio VC and Datadog founder and CEO Olivier Pomel. Company founder and CEO Sanjay Jain says that he started this company because he felt the frustration personally of having to hunt across different cloud services to find the information he was looking for. When he began researching the idea for the company, he found others who also complained about this fragmentation. “Our fundamental vision is to change the way that knowledge workers acquire the information they need to do their jobs from one where they have to spend a ton of time actually seeking it out to one where the Seva platform can prescribe the right information at the right time when and where the knowledge worker actually needs it, regardless of where it lives.” Seva, which is currently in Beta, certainly isn’t the first company to try to solve this issue. Jain believes that with a modern application of AI and machine learning and single sign-on, Seva can provide a much more user-centric approach than past solutions simply because the technology wasn’t there yet. The way they do this is by looking across the different information types. Today they support a range of products including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive,, Box, Dropbox, Slack and JIRA, Confluence. Jain says they will be adding additional services over time. Screenshot: Seva Customers can link Seva to these products by simply selecting one and entering the user credentials. Seva inherits all of the security and permissioning applied to each of the services, so when it begins pulling information from different sources, it doesn’t violate any internal permissioning in the process. Jain says once connected to these services, Seva can then start making logical connections between information wherever it lives. A salesperson might have an appointment with a customer in his or her calendar, information about the customer in a CRM and a training video related to the customer visit.…

Sick of managing your Airbnb? Vacasa raises $64M to do it for you

Airbnbing can be a ton of work. Between key pickups, tidying, and maintenance emergencies, renting out your place isn’t such a passive revenue source. But Vacasa equips owners with full-service vacation home management, including listings on top rental platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway, as well as local cleaners who come between guests. It now manages 10,600 vacation rental properties in over 16 countries. With the peer-to-peer housing market maturing and Airbnb looking to go public, private equity firms see an opportunity in who controls the end relationship with home owners like Vacasa does. So today the startup is announcing it’s raised $64 million in a Series B bridge round led by Riverwood, and joined by Level Equity, Assurant, and Newspring. The cash will fuel Vacasa’s expansion into real estate as it seeks to sell property to people who want to own and rent out a vacation home. Vacasa was impressively bootstrapped from 2009 until 2015. “I’ve always been passionate about vacation rentals. When traveling with friends or family, I love having common spaces to come together in” says CEO Eric Breon. He founded the company after owning a vacation cabin on the Washington Coast. He’d go up in the Spring, spend a weekend fixing up the place, it’d sit idle all summer, and then he’d have to spend another weekend closing it up. He considered a local property manager, but they massively underestimated how much he could earn off renting it out. So Breon built Vacasa to make it easy for home owners to earn the most money without a hassle. After years growing the business organically, Vacasa raised a $35 million series A from Level Equity in 2016, then $5 million more from Assurant. Then in fall of 2017, it raised an $103.5 million series B. Now it’s topping up that round with $64 million and a new valuation warranted by the startup’s growth this past year. That brings Vacasa to a total of $207.5 million in funding While that’s just a fraction of the over $4.4 billion Airbnb has raised. But Vacasa caters to a more upscale market that…

With $50M in fresh funding, Allbirds will open new stores in the US, UK and Asia

The quintessential venture capitalist’s uniform consists of a pair of designer jeans, a Patagonia fleece vest and $95 wool sneakers. The company behind the shoes, Allbirds, entered the unicorn club this morning with the announcement of a $50 million Series C from late-stage players T. Rowe Price, which led the round, Tiger Global and Fidelity Investments. The 3-year-old startup founded by Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown has raised $75 million to date, including a $17.5 million Series B last year. It’s backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, Scooter Braun, Maveron, Lerer Hippeau and Elephant, the venture capital firm led by Warby Parker founder Andrew Hunt. The Wall Street Journal is reporting the round values Allbirds at $1.4 billion. The company would not confirm that figure to TechCrunch. Like Warby Parker, San Francisco-based Allbirds began as a direct-to-consumer online retailer but has since expanded to brick-and-mortar, opening stores in San Francisco and New York. It currently ships to locations across the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Next week, the company plans to open its first storefront in the U.K. in London’s Covent Garden neighborhood. It will begin shipping throughout the U.K. In 2019. Using its latest investment, Allbirds will double down on its brick-and-mortar business. In addition to the U.K., the company says it will open even more locations in the U.S., as well as open doors in Asia in the coming months. Tiger Global, which has backed Allbirds since its Series B, may be of help. The firm has offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as partners across Asia. Allbirds makes eco-friendly wool shoes for men, women and kids via its kid’s line, aptly named Smallbirds. The shoes are made of sustainable materials, including merino wool, a fabric made from eucalyptus fiber that the company has dubbed “Tree” and “SweetFoam,” a shoe sole made from sugarcane-based, carbon-negative foam rubber. “Climate change is the problem of our generation and the private sector has a responsibility to combat it,” Zwillinger, Allbirds’ chief executive officer, said in a statement. “This injection of capital will help us bring our sustainable products to more people around the globe, demonstrating that comfort, design…

Study says the US is quickly losing its entrepreneurial edge

Photographer: Daro Sulakauri/Bloomberg According to a new study conducted by the Center for American Entrepreneurship and NYU’s Shack Institute of Real Estate, the US may be losing its competitive advantage as the dominant nucleus of the startup and venture capital universe.  The analysis, led by senior Brookings Institution fellow Ian Hathaway and “Rise of the Creative Class” author Richard Florida, examines the flow of venture capital over 100,000 deals from 2005 to 2017 and details how the historically US-centric practice of venture capital has become a global phenomenon. While the US still appears to produce the largest amount of venture activity in the world, America’s share of the global pie is falling dramatically and doing so quickly. In the mid-90s, the US accounted for more than 95% of global venture capital investment.  By 2012, this number had fallen to 70%. At the end of 2017, the US share of total venture investment had fallen to just 50%.    Over the last decade, non-US countries have propelled growth in the global startup and venture economy, which has swelled from $50 billion to over $170 billion in size.  In particular, China, India and the UK now account for a third of global venture deal count and dollars – 2-3x the share held ten years ago.  And with VC dollars increasingly circulating into modernizing Asia-Pac and European cities, the researchers found that the erosion in the US share of venture capital is trending in the wrong direction. Growth of global startup cities and the myth of the American “rise of the rest” We’ve spent the summer discussing the notion of Silicon Valley reaching its parabolic peak – Observing the “rise of the rest” across smaller American tech hubs.  In reality, the data reveals a “rise in the rest of the world”, with startup ecosystems outside the US growing at a faster pace than most US hubs. The Bay Area remains the world’s preeminent beneficiary of VC investment, and New York, Los Angeles, and Boston all find themselves in the top ten cities contributing to global venture growth.  However, only six of the top 20 cities are located in the US, while 14 are in Asia or Europe.  At the…

Deliverr raises $7M to help e-commerce businesses compete with Amazon Prime

When Amazon rolled out its membership-based two-day shipping service in 2005, e-commerce and customer expectations around fulfillment speed changed forever. Today, more than 100 million people use Amazon Prime. That means, 100 million people are fully accustomed to two-day shipping and if they can’t have it, they shop elsewhere. As The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims recently put it: “Alongside life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, you can now add another inalienable right: two-day shipping on practically everything.” Only recently have Amazon’s competitors begun to offer similar fast delivery options. About two years ago, Walmart launched its own free two-day delivery service for its owned-inventory; eBay followed suit, establishing a three-day or less delivery guaranteed option for shoppers in March 2017. To power these Prime-like delivery options, Walmart, eBay and the Canadian e-commerce business Shopify are relying on a little upstart. One-year-old Deliverr helps businesses offer rapid delivery experiences to their customers. Today, the company is announcing a $7.1 million Series A led by Joe Lonsdale’s 8VC, with participation from Zola founder Shan-Lyn Ma, Flexport chief executive officer Ryan Peterson and others. The San Francisco-based startup uses machine learning and predictive intelligence to determine which of its warehouses to store its client’s goods. Walmart launches free, 2-day shipping without a membership on purchases of $35 or more Currently, Deliverr operates out of more than 10 warehouses in Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey, among other states, though co-founder Michael Krakaris says that number is growing every week. Its customers typically store inventory in three to five different locations based on Deliverr’s predictive algorithms. Unlike Amazon, which owns more than 75 fulfillment centers, Deliverr doesn’t own its warehouses. Krakaris describes the company’s strategy as a sort of Uber for fulfillment. “Uber didn’t change the physical infrastructure of cars. They didn’t build their own taxis. What they did was create software that could connect excess capacity drivers,” Krakaris told TechCrunch. “Most warehouses aren’t going to be full. We are going in and filling that extra space they wouldn’t otherwise fill.” One of the startup’s tricks is to use brand-neutral packaging so any and all marketplaces could theoretically power fulfillment through Deliverr. Amazon,…

Siilo injects $5.1M to try to transplant WhatsApp use in hospitals

Consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp are not only insanely popular for chatting with friends but have pushed deep into the workplace too, thanks to the speed and convenience they offer. They have even crept into hospitals, as time-strapped doctors reach for a quick and easy way to collaborate over patient cases on the ward. Yet WhatsApp is not specifically designed with the safe sharing of highly sensitive medical information in mind. This is where Dutch startup Siilo has been carving a niche for itself for the past 2.5 years — via a free-at-the-point-of-use encrypted messaging app that’s intended for medical professions to securely collaborate on patient care, such as via in-app discussion groups and being able to securely store and share patient notes. A business goal that could be buoyed by tighter EU regulations around handling personal data, say if hospital managers decide they need to address compliance risks around staff use of consumer messaging apps. The app’s WhatsApp-style messaging interface will be instantly familiar to any smartphone user. But Siilo bakes in additional features for its target healthcare professional users, such as keeping photos, videos and files sent via the app siloed in an encrypted vault that’s entirely separate from any personal media also stored on the device. Messages sent via Siilo are also automatically deleted after 30 days unless the user specifies a particular message should be retained. And the app does not make automated back-ups of users’ conversations. Other doctor-friendly features include the ability to blur images (for patient privacy purposes); augment images with arrows for emphasis; and export threaded conversations to electronic health records. There’s also mandatory security for accessing the app — with a requirement for either a PIN-code, fingerprint or facial recognition biometric to be used. While a remote wipe functionality to nix any locally stored data is baked into Siilo in the event of a device being lost or stolen. Like WhatsApp, Siilo also uses end-to-end encryption — though in its case it says this is based on the opensource NaCl library It also specifies that user messaging data is stored encrypted on European ISO-27001 certified servers — and…

Rylo scores $20 million for its clever camera tech

You may recall Rylo from this time last year, when the imaging startup launched a creative take on the 360 camera. The company’s been fairly quiet in the six months since it launched some new software tricks, but a new round of funding should help the company take some key steps toward spreading the gospel. This week, Rylo announced that it has secured a $20 million Series B, led by Icon Ventures. That brings its total up to $35 million, with help from Accel Partners and Sequoia Capital. Plans for the funding are pretty much what you’d expect. “Securing Series B funding from this excellent group of investors will allow us to maximize our potential for growth and earn significantly more market share,” CEO Alex Karpenko said in a release tied to the news. “We have come a long way since our launch one year ago, and I’m excited to continue to drive Rylo’s growth through investments in marketing, sales and retail partnerships in the coming year.” Rylo’s camera represents an interesting piece of tech that utilizes 360 videos to create some unorthodox camera tricks, like stabilizing images, following subjects and creating a number of interesting effects. The product also has solid distribution with more than 500 retail locations in the U.S., including Best Buy. Marketing, however, is going to be key for the success of the $499 camera, whose initial appeal is not as immediately apparent as the likes of GoPro.

JFrog lands $165M investment as valuation jumps over $1 billion

JFrog wants to change the way we deal with software updates. Instead of large numbered updates you have to manually download, it sees a future of continuous delivery where software is delivered as binaries and updated in the background. Investors must like that vision very much because they showered the company with a $165 million Series D investment today, which it says pushes its valuation past the billion-dollar mark. The round was led by Insight Venture Partners, and as part of the deal Insight’s co-founder and managing director, Jeff Horing will be joining the JFrog board. Other investors joining the round included new investors and Silicon Valley Funds, Spark Capital and Geodesic Capital, as well as existing investors Battery Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, Scale Venture Partners, Dell Technologies Capital and Vintage Investment Partners. Today’s investment pushes the total invested to-date to over $226 million. What the company has done to justify this kind of investment is offer a series of products that enable customers to deliver code in the form of binaries. That in turn allows them to deliver updates on a regular basis in the background without disturbing the user experience. In a world of continuous delivery, this approach is essential. You couldn’t deliver multiple updates a day if you had to take down your service every time you did it. The JFrog platform is actually made up of multiple products, but the main one is JFrog Artifactory where companies can add the latest binaries (updates) and deliver them to customers in the background. It’s not unlike, GitHub, but whereas GitHub is a repository for downloading software and updates, the Artifactory is a place to deliver these updates automatically without user involvement. It also handles other DevOps functions like security, access control and distribution. JFrog platform. Diagram: JFrog CEO and co-founder Shlomi Ben Haim was happy to reveal that the company’s valuation had entered unicorn territory, but he wasn’t willing to share an exact number. “I don’t want to get into details, but we exceeded the billion dollar valuation. We are north of $1 billion already and we are building…

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