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The Silicon Valley exodus continues

Posted by on Mar 5, 2019 in 500 startups, Accel, Accelerator, angelpad, founders fund, General Catalyst, Kleiner Perkins, Menlo Park, norwest venture partners, palo alto, San Francisco, shasta ventures, Silicon Valley, Startups, TC, True Ventures, Uber, Venture Capital, Y Combinator | 0 comments

For a long time, it was the norm for founders to haul their hardware to the 3000 block of Sand Hill Road, where the venture capitalists of “Silicon Valley” would be awaiting their pitches. Today, many of the investors that touted the exclusivity of “The Valley” have moved north to San Francisco, where they have better access to top entrepreneurs.

Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley institution and to many the lifeblood of the startups and venture capital ecosystem, is the latest to pack up shop. YC, which invests $150,000 for 7 percent equity in a few hundred startups per year, is currently searching for a space in SF to operate its accelerator program, sources close to YC confirm to TechCrunch, because the majority of YC’s employees and its portfolio founders reside in the city.

Founded in 2005, YC’s roots are in Mountain View, California. In its first four years, YC offered programs in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Mountain View before opting in 2009 to focus exclusively on The Valley. In late 2013, as more and more of its partners and portfolio companies were establishing themselves in SF, YC opened a satellite office in the city in what would be the beginning of its journey northbound.

The small satellite office, used to support SF-based staff and provide portfolio companies resources and workspace, is located in Union Square. The fate of YC’s Mountain View office is unclear.

YC’s move north will be the latest in a series of small changes that, together, point to a new era for the Sam Altman-run accelerator. Approaching its 15th birthday, YC announced in September it was changing up the way it invests. No longer would it seed startups with $120,000 for 7 percent equity, it would give startups an additional 30,000 to cover the expenses of getting a business off the ground and it would admit a whole lot more companies.

YC began mentoring its largest cohort of companies to date in late 2018. The astonishing 200-plus group in its winter 2019 batch is more than 50 percent larger than the 132-team cohort that graduated in spring 2018. To accommodate the truly gigantic group at YC Demo Days later this month (March 18 and 19), YC has moved to a new venue, SF’s Pier 48. Historically, YC Demo Days were hosted at the Computer History Museum near its home in Mountain View.

YC has also ditched “Investor Day,” which is typically an opportunity for investors to schedule meetings with startups that just completed the accelerator program. YC writes that the decision came “after analyzing its effectiveness.” On top of that, rumors suggest YC is planning to put an end to Demo Days. Other accelerators, AngelPad for example, put a stop to the tradition last year after realizing demo day was more of a stress to startup founders than a resource. Sources close to YC, however, tell TechCrunch these rumors are categorically false.

YC isn’t the first accelerator to ditch its Silicon Valley digs. 500 Startups, a smaller yet still prolific accelerator, opened an SF satellite office the same year as YC, and in 2018, the nine-year-old program made the decision to permanently relocate to SF. Venture capital firms, too, have realized the opportunities are larger in SF than on Sand Hill Road.

The transition from the peninsula to the city began around 2012, when VC heavyweights like Uber and Twitter-backer Benchmark opened an office in SF’s mid-market neighborhood. Months later, 47-year-old Kleiner Perkins, an investor in Stripe and DoorDash, opened the doors to its new workplace in SF’s South Park neighborhood.

Around that same time a whole bunch of firms followed suit: Shasta Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Accel, GV, General Catalyst and NEA opened SF shops, to name a few. Many of these firms, Benchmark, Kleiner and Accel, for example, held onto their Silicon Valley locations. Firms like True Ventures and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund planted stakes in SF years prior. Both firms have operated SF offices since 2005; True Ventures, for its part, has managed a Palo Alto office from the get-go, as well.

“When we first started, it was [expected] that it would be maybe 60-40 Peninsula to the city; it’s actually turned out to be 80-20 SF to The Valley,” True Ventures co-founder Phil Black told TechCrunch. “For us, it was important to be near our customer: the founder. It’s important for us to be in and around where founders are doing their things.”

The transition out of The Valley is ongoing. Other VC funds are still in the process of opening their first SF offices as more partners beg for shorter commutes. Khosla Ventures, for example, is currently searching for an SF headquarters.

Silicon Valley real estate will likely remain a hot — or warm, at least — commodity, however. Why? Because long-time investors have lives established in that part of the bay, where they’ve built homes in well-kept, affluent cities like Woodside, Atherton and Los Altos.

Still, Y Combinator’s move highlights an increasingly adopted mantra: Silicon Valley isn’t the goldmine it used to be. For the best deals and greatest access to entrepreneurs, SF takes the cake — for now, that is. But with rising rents and a changing attitude toward geographically diverse founders, how long SF will remain the destination for top talent is an entirely different question.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Startups Weekly: Squad’s screen-shares and Slack’s swastika

Posted by on Jan 19, 2019 in alex wilhelm, altos ventures, AnchorFree, Andreessen Horowitz, Autotech Ventures, Aviva Ventures, berlin, bird, bluerun ventures, Business, ceo, Ciitizen, crowdstrike, CrunchBase, economy, editor-in-chief, entrepreneurship, Finance, First Round Capital, Flash, France, Greenspring Associates, Ingrid Lunden, Italy, josh constine, Lance Armstrong, Maverick Ventures, Next Ventures, norwest venture partners, Portugal, Private Equity, redpoint ventures, resolute ventures, Rubrik, series C, slack, slow ventures, Spain, Startup company, Startups, switzerland, Tandem Capital, TC, TechStars, tools, unicorn, valar ventures, Venture Capital, zack Whittaker | 0 comments

We’re three weeks into January. We’ve recovered from our CES hangover and, hopefully, from the CES flu. We’ve started writing the correct year, 2019, not 2018.

Venture capitalists have gone full steam ahead with fundraising efforts, several startups have closed multi-hundred million dollar rounds, a virtual influencer raised equity funding and yet, all anyone wants to talk about is Slack’s new logo… As part of its public listing prep, Slack announced some changes to its branding this week, including a vaguely different looking logo. Considering the flack the $7 billion startup received instantaneously and accusations that the negative space in the logo resembled a swastika — Slack would’ve been better off leaving its original logo alone; alas…

On to more important matters.

Rubrik more than doubled its valuation

The data management startup raised a $261 million Series E funding at a $3.3 billion valuation, an increase from the $1.3 billion valuation it garnered with a previous round. In true unicorn form, Rubrik’s CEO told TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden it’s intentionally unprofitable: “Our goal is to build a long-term, iconic company, and so we want to become profitable but not at the cost of growth,” he said. “We are leading this market transformation while it continues to grow.”

Deal of the week: Knock gets $400M to take on Opendoor

Will 2019 be a banner year for real estate tech investment? As $4.65 billion was funneled into the space in 2018 across more than 350 deals and with high-flying startups attracting investors (Compass, Opendoor, Knock), the excitement is poised to continue. This week, Knock brought in $400 million at an undisclosed valuation to accelerate its national expansion. “We are trying to make it as easy to trade in your house as it is to trade in your car,” Knock CEO Sean Black told me.

Cybersecurity stays hot

While we’re on the subject of VCs’ favorite industries, TechCrunch cybersecurity reporter Zack Whittaker highlights some new data on venture investment in the industry. Strategic Cyber Ventures says more than $5.3 billion was funneled into companies focused on protecting networks, systems and data across the world, despite fewer deals done during the year. We can thank Tanium, CrowdStrike and Anchorfree’s massive deals for a good chunk of that activity.

Send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

Fundraising efforts continue

I would be remiss not to highlight a slew of venture firms that made public their intent to raise new funds this week. Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures filed to raise $350 million across two new funds and Redpoint Ventures set a $400 million target for two new China-focused funds. Meanwhile, Resolute Ventures closed on $75 million for its fourth early-stage fund, BlueRun Ventures nabbed $130 million for its sixth effort, Maverick Ventures announced a $382 million evergreen fund, First Round Capital introduced a new pre-seed fund that will target recent graduates, Techstars decided to double down on its corporate connections with the launch of a new venture studio and, last but not least, Lance Armstrong wrote his very first check as a VC out of his new fund, Next Ventures.

More money goes toward scooters

In case you were concerned there wasn’t enough VC investment in electric scooter startups, worry no more! Flash, a Berlin-based micro-mobility company, emerged from stealth this week with a whopping €55 million in Series A funding. Flash is already operating in Switzerland and Portugal, with plans to launch into France, Italy and Spain in 2019. Bird and Lime are in the process of raising $700 million between them, too, indicating the scooter funding extravaganza of 2018 will extend into 2019 — oh boy!

Startups secure cash

  • Niantic finally closed its Series C with $245 million in capital commitments and a lofty $4 billion valuation.
  • Outdoorsy, which connects customers with underused RVs, raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from Aviva Ventures, Altos Ventures, AutoTech Ventures and Tandem Capital.
  • Ciitizen, a developer of tools to help cancer patients organize and share their medical records, has raised $17 million in new funding in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz.
  • Footwear startup Birdies — no, I don’t mean Allbirds or Rothy’s — brought in an $8 million Series A led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from Slow Ventures and earlier investor Forerunner Ventures.
  • And Brud, the company behind the virtual celebrity Lil Miquela, is now worth $125 million with new funding.

Feature of the week

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine introduced readers to Squad this week, a screensharing app for social phone addicts.

Listen to me talk

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I marveled at the dollars going into scooter startups, discussed Slack’s upcoming direct listing and debated how the government shutdown might impact the IPO market.

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.

Source: The Tech Crunch

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Grove Collaborative, a subscription startup selling ‘household essentials,’ has been quietly raising a lot of moolah

Posted by on Dec 27, 2018 in eCommerce, general atlantic, Grove Collaborative, mayfield, MHS Capital, norwest venture partners, Recent Funding, Startups, TC | 0 comments

Grove Collaborative, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that sells household, personal care, baby, children’s and pet products, has been busy raising money in 2018, shows two new SEC filings that lists representatives from the company’s earlier investors, including Mayfield, Norwest Venture Partners and MHS Capital, as well as apparent new investor General Atlantic, represented by partner Catherine Beaudoin.

One of the filings shows that Grove Collaborative, which had already raised roughly $62 million as of the start of 2018, subsequently raised $27.4 million more this year. A separate, second filing shows another $76.4 million has been secured in what looks to be a newer round that’s targeting $125 million. It’s a lot of money for such a young company, which suggests it has found traction with a growing customer base.

We’ve reached out to Grove Collaborative and are waiting to learn more.

As we reported back in January, co-founder Stuart Landesberg started the company after working with retail brands during two years as an associate with TPG Capital, which focuses on growth equity and middle-market private equity transactions. With shelf space limited for brands in brick-and-mortar stores, he saw an opportunity for a startup that prompts consumers to buy the kinds of items they buy over and over again just as they are running out of them: think dish soap, pet food, deodorant, vitamins and sunscreen.

Amazon, of course, similarly prompts its customers to buy such items, but Grove Collaborative is marketing to a slightly narrower demographic, that of people who want only all-natural products. In fact, along with the brands that it make it easier for its customers to find — think Method and Mrs. Meyers — the company began selling its own all-natural products this year. Among the many dozens of offerings it now retails under the Grove Collaborative label: a coconut body lotion, a foaming hand soap, coffee filters, soy candles and lip balm.

The move puts the startup in more direct competition with other e-commerce companies, like the consumer goods company Honest Company, which similarly sells natural products for the home and personal care, though many of its products are now sold on shelves in big retail stores like Target.

Grove Collaborative also looks to be competing more directly now with well-funded Brandless, which raised $240 million from SoftBank’s Vision Fund in summer at a valuation of slightly more than $500 million. Brandless also sells its own all-natural household and personal care products, though, unlike Grove Collaborative, it also focuses on food and, unlike Grove, it offers a subscription service, yet does not revolve around one. Grove is exclusively selling an auto-shipment service.

Grove had previously raised two separate rounds of funding in quick succession: a $15 million Series B round it closed in March of 2017, following by a $35 million Series C round it announced in January of this year.

Given that Landesberg was formerly an investor himself, he may well have realized — as have many founders — that raising money next year may be far harder in 2019 than it has been this year. As the CEO of Zymergen, whose giant funding round we recently featured, told Bloomberg last week: “We wanted to have some fat on our bones for sure . . . The time to raise money is when people are giving it to you.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Norwest just scored an interesting new partner: Google and Facebook alum Priti Youssef Choksi

Posted by on Jun 6, 2018 in norwest venture partners, TC, Venture Capital | 0 comments

A lot of people who’ve been working in the venture industry — even for many years — haven’t seen a true down cycle.

Somewhat ironically, Priti Youssef Choksi, a newly minted VC, knows very well what one looks like. The newest partner of the multi-stage investment firm Norwest Venture Partners has been working in tech since before the last boom and bust — and she has lessons to share about both good times and bad.

It all started in her native Mumbai (“Bombay to me!” she says). Choksi didn’t tell her parents when, as a teenager, she applied to the University of Pennsylvania to study architecture and business. “I couldn’t study both back home,” she says, somewhat sheepishly from Norwest’s glass-lined new offices in San Francisco’s South Park neighborhood.

Instead of wind up at an architecture firm, she landed at Broadview Associates, an investment bank that was based in the Bay Area and advised dozens of tech companies during the go-go dot.com days — before nosediving along with the market. (In 2003, it was acquired by bigger rival Jefferies.)

By then, Choksi had already joined one of the bank’s clients, an internet marketing company called USWeb whose CEO asked her to work for him despite having no discrete job description. Looking back now, Choksi remembers the experience fondly, saying she ran strategy projects and competitive analysis of what others in the industry were doing as USWeb grew from a 200- to an 8,000-person operation. This being the dot com era, however, USWeb, which was renowned for its roll-up strategy at the time, merged with another company, which promptly went bankrupt.

Choksi again left before her employer’s demise to join a streaming media company, but alas, it wasn’t meant to last long either, either, including because broadband connections didn’t yet exist to support startup’s vision. If at this point, Choksi felt ready to throw in the towel, she doesn’t seem to recall it. Instead, she entered into a one-year program at the Kellogg School to burnish her “soft skills and negotiating skills and things you don’t have time to practice” at a startup. Then she headed right back to Silicon Valley.

Her return would begin a second chapter of sorts. In fact, like a lot of people who came to the Bay Area in the ’90s and who have stayed, Choksi’s fortunes began to turn after the detritus of the bubble’s burst began to blow away. First came a job at Google, where she stayed six years, holding roles in both strategic partnerships and, later, distribution partnerships, where she says she helped convince management to bundle the company’s search bar with other products to get it into the world more widely.

By 2009, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg — a former Google exec who’d seen Choksi’s work — was reaching out to Choksi to ask if she would help run business development at Facebook, which itself was still privately held at the time. Choksi said yes, so thoroughly enjoying the company that five years later, she moved to the “dark side, doing M&A at Facebook” for another four years.

She notes that, by then, Facebook had “moved beyond acqui-hires to doing big tech bets” but like everyone in the M&A world, she wasn’t able to strike a deal with every interesting founder she met. Eventually, her abiding fascination with compelling founders and startups led her work with a recruiter earlier this year.

At first, she imagined she would take on yet another operating role at a small but growing company. Instead, Norwest managing partner Jeff Crowe raised his hand and asked for a meeting with her. It was apparently a match from the start. Sitting in an airy conference room, Choksi says of the move that she and Crowe were and remain “just very direct with each other.” Norwest was also, somewhat incredibly, the “only venture firm that invited me to a partner-and-pitch meeting” while it was trying to lure her into the fold, she says.

Crowe certainly sees Choksi’s hire as a big win as the firm continues to build out it consumer-facing investment practice.

He volunteers that he’s particularly appreciative of Choksi’s ties to Facebook and to the many people who’ve spun out of the company to work on their own projects. But he also recognizes her ability to identify a good opportunity when she sees one and to support founders as they grow their companies. “Somebody who’s been in the industry a long time, knows a lot of people, seen a lot of technologies, and worked with entrepreneurs both inside of out of companies like Facebook — including during their awkward teenage phase?” says Crowe. “It’s pretty exciting for us.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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